Trump scrutinized for response to white nationalist rally violence

Charlottesville, Va., declared a state of emergency in response to the rally.

ByABC News
August 12, 2017, 11:43 PM

— -- President Donald Trump received widespread criticism after denouncing "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" Saturday after violence a white nationalist rally and counter-protest rattled Charlottesville, Virginia, leaving at least one person dead when a car drove through a group of pedestrians in that city's downtown.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides," said Trump in remarks from his golf club in New Jersey, where he was scheduled to sign a law on veteran employment.

Critiques of the president flooded social media from both sides of the political spectrum Saturday afternoon and evening. Many condemned Trump's "many sides" line, questioned why he has not reproached white nationalism, and asked why the attack -- which did not garner a specific reference in the president's speech -- was not labelled a terrorist incident.

"Mr. President - we must call evil by its name," wrote Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado on Twitter. "These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."

In response to the attention received by Trump's choice of words, a White House official elaborated that "there was violence between protesters and counter-protesters today."

James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, of Ohio was in police custody and charged with second degree murder in connection with the incident, and an additional 19 people were being treated for injuries, according to the Charlottesville Police.

After noting that the issues being confronted in Virginia have "been going on for a long time in our country," Trump called for "a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives."

"We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation, and -- really, I say this so strongly -- true for each other," said Trump, who then pivoted to a discussion about the decine in the United States' unemployment rate and manufacturing growth, before returning to the subject of national unity.

"We must love each other, respect each other and cherish our history and our future together," he continued. "So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally we have to love each other."

The president, who touted his posture against terrorism throughout his campaign for office last year and has since signed controversial executive orders aimed at protecting Americans, did not label Saturday's incident as an act of terror in his remarks and declined to answer shouted questions on the subject from reporters afterward.

A chorus of Washington legislators, including Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Marco Rubio R-Fla.; Tim Scott, R-S.C. and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis. all termed the attack terrorism Saturday.

Earlier in the day, Trump joined a chorus of figures from across the U.S. political spectrum to speak out against the white nationalist rally, tweeting, "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!"

He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence as well as First Lady Melania Trump in speaking out about the situation.

"Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville," Melania Trump wrote on Twitter.

Some on social media criticized the timing of Trump's response to the rally, noting that it emerged after several other prominent political figures had already spoken out about the event.

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