President Trump on Monday was in damage control mode, changing his schedule to address the growing outrage over his tepid reaction to the violence caused by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Virginia.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred bigotry and violence. It has no place in America,” Trump said in remarks at the White House that were moved up three hours as the criticism from the right and left grew in ferocity.
“Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” the president continued, naming for the first time the groups that sparked the rioting, which left three dead and scores injured.
”We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator. We are equal under the law, and we are equal under our Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” he said, adding that the Justice Department had opened a civil rights investigation into the violence.
“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable.”
Trump began his remarks by giving himself a pat on the back for what he said were his accomplishments since taking office.
“Our economy is now strong. The stock market continues to hit record highs. Businesses are more optimistic than ever before. Companies are moving back to the United States and bringing many thousands of jobs with them. We have already created over 1 million jobs since I took office,” the president said.
Trump earlier ignored shouted questions about the race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville.
He briefly waved as he walked alone into the White House, which is under renovation, but did not respond to queries from reporters about whether he condemned white supremacists and the actions of neo-Nazis.
One woman was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters who’d gathered to oppose a rally by white nationalists and others who oppose a plan to remove from a Charlottesville park of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — a hero to Trump’s legions of alt-right supporters.
Two state troopers were also killed when their helicopter crashed while responding to the unrest.
Trump has said “many sides” are to blame for violence — sparking outrage and ridicule.
The president is in Washington for one day during a 17-day “working vacation” spent mostly in Bedminster, New Jersey.