Approval of the president’s response to Charlottesville stood at just 28 percent, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.
ABC News telephoned some of the people who participated in the poll, who either said they approved of the president’s response to Charlottesville or said neo-Nazi-white supremacist views were acceptable, to understand why they reacted differently than the many Americans who have condemned the president’s comments.
While the responses to how the president handled the aftermath of Charlottesville from the president’s supporters were varied, many simply said the president was telling it like it is, and cutting through the narratives pushed by the media.
The slippery slope
Not all memorials and monuments have to be about the positive side of history, she said. “The Auschwitz crematorium still exists and that’s one of the most horrific things that has happened that I can think of,” Hursh, 43, said of the concentration camp where the Nazis exterminated over a million people, most of them Jews, during World War II.
Despite her approval of how the president responded to Charlottesville, Hursh said she thought he could have elaborated more on the events and given a clearer explanation of what took place.
Trump’s being Trump
Fischer, who described herself as a “big Trump supporter,” said the recent uptick in protests across the country feel “orchestrated” to her.
Fischer also decried the influence of what she described as “elites” in the media, who, she said, fail to tell the whole story. She also expressed a sentiment that would, no doubt, be music to the president’s ears: “[Trump] didn’t have to become president, he didn’t need it, he’s got all the money, he didn’t have to take on all these headaches.”
It’s a free country
Some of those interviewed, like Dan Trombetti of Paducah, Kentucky, said that while the views held by those protesting the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville are “totally not right,” that doesn’t mean they do not have the right to express them.
“Their beliefs aren’t according to my beliefs but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to express them peacefully,” he said.
Trombetti said the issue of whether to remove Confederate statutes should be put to a vote locally. He also defended the president’s evolving statements on Charlottesville, saying he didn’t have “all the information that he needed to condemn whoever it was.”
’Both sides’ deserve blame
“President Trump was right in condemning both sides,” Mark Baker of St. Cloud, Minnesota, said. “You have the ‘antifa’ [antifacists] with their face covered and the neo-Nazi’s with their sticks and poles and flags. If you’re there to protest peacefully, there’s no reason to bring a bat or cover your face.”
Baker said he doesn’t support anyone who wants to go out and show hate in the world today. He also said that the statues and monuments that may be torn down are “part of our history” and he believes they are not meant to offend people.
The free speech argument was another with which Baker agreed, saying, “I don’t want to see the First Amendment get ruined. Once somebody shuts them [the protesters] up, it’s never going to stop.”
Trump was ‘point on’ in his response
Donald Culpepper, 74, approved of Trump’s response to Charlottesville, which he called “point on.”
“You can’t stop violence with more violence,” Culpepper, who identifies as a somewhat conservative Republican, said.
The Houma, Louisiana, native says he believes “people have a right to believe whatever they want to,” and responded in the poll that people’s having neo-Nazi views is acceptable. But “If you act upon something you believe and it’s outside of the code of rules we live by, then that’s certainly improper,” he added.
The libertarian viewpoint
“Good people don’t get swooped up in the mob mentality; they think for themselves,” Lori Ford, 58, said of the violence in Charlottesville, “and, in my opinion, that’s what I believe happened.”
Ford of Phoenix, Arizona, said Confederate monuments like the statue of Robert E. Lee that partly sparked protests in Charlottesville don’t offend her personally, but that she “can see how they trigger some people.”
A self-described libertarian, Ford said she accepts people’s having neo-Nazi views because of her belief in free speech. She added, however, that “free speech stops at the second that violence starts.”
The incidents in Charlottesville were “horrible,” and “if that type of violence continues, then it’s bad for everybody,” Ford warned.
Pointing to regulations on free speech like rally permits, Ford said “the government has no qualms about taking our rights away.”
Don’t paint with a broad brush
Allen Knowles of Detroit responded to the poll that he approved of Trump’s response to Charlottesville but did not find neo-Nazi views acceptable. “I’m not saying [Trump’s] not pro-white people,” Knowles said, “but I do think he went out there and he denounced both of the groups.”
Knowles, 33, said he thinks “Democrats are paying” for people to “go against Trump.”
“I don’t believe that all white people who were [at the Charlottesville protests] were the Nazis,” Knowles said, though making sure to clarify, “A lot of the people [counterprotesters] are the Black Lives Matter movement.”