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TORCH EDITORIAL: President Gives White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi Groups Validation and Cover by Not Labeling Them Domestic Terrorists

Suspected+Neo-Nazi+James+Fields+drove+his+car+into+a+group+of+counterprotesters+during+a+White+Supremacist%2FNeo-Nazi+rally+in+Charlottesville%2C+NC+on+Aug.+12%2C+killing+one+and+injuring+19+others.+
Suspected Neo-Nazi James Fields drove his car into a group of counterprotesters during a White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, NC on Aug. 12, killing one and injuring 19 others.

Suspected Neo-Nazi James Fields drove his car into a group of counterprotesters during a White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, NC on Aug. 12, killing one and injuring 19 others.

Suspected Neo-Nazi James Fields drove his car into a group of counterprotesters during a White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, NC on Aug. 12, killing one and injuring 19 others.

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Over the past few weeks, the country has been in a frenzy over a white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, Aug. 12, that turned violent. Tiki torch-wielding people also marched through the University of Virginia campus on the preceding Friday.

The protest was initially centered around the removal of a Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue. However, the rally became much more than that when hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members and Neo-Nazis shouting racist, anti-Semitic, and offensive slogans marched displaying Confederate, Nazi, and KKK flags and symbols. Even militia groups with weapons, including assault rifles, were present at the rally.

The peak of violence came when white nationalist James Alex Fields Jr. drove a speeding car into a group of counter-protesters, claiming the life of one woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others.

White supremacy has existed in the U.S. for a long time, but there has been a visible trend of such hate groups becoming bolder lately. For many, President Donald Trump has become a figure for these hate groups to rally around. As former KKK leader David Duke proclaimed last Saturday, “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promise of Donald Trump…That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”

After the ugly weekend in Charlottesville, all Trump had to do to distance himself from such hate groups was properly condemn the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist groups. However, the president would not explicitly call out such groups, instead stating on Saturday that he condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

This statement blaming “many sides” received instant backlash from citizens and politicians all over the political spectrum. Republican Senator Cory Gardner tweeted, “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These are white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” Florida senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Very important for the nation to hear POTUS describe events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists.”

Many other senators including Ted Cruz of Texas and John McCain of Arizona also made statements critical of Trump’s initial response. In fact, it seems ex-KKK Grand Wizard David Duke was one of the only people to issue a positive remark, tweeting, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”

It wasn’t until Monday that Trump responded with the statement: “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups.” Many white supremacists were upset with Trump’s walk-back of his Sunday remarks. Duke tweeted out once again: “I would recommend you take a good luck in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

However, Trump was not finished yet. Merely a day after he denounced white supremacists and their role in the Charlottesville violence, he backtracked on Tuesday in a press conference at Trump Tower and placed blame on the counter-protesters as well.  Trump asked the assembled press corps, “What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” He also stated that there were “some very fine people on both sides.”

This comparison between hate groups and the counter-protesters angered many people. Numerous Republicans made their opinions clear again, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who asserted, “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”

McCain’s tweet was especially critical: “There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so.” Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called the president’s latest statement “sick.”

Trump also claimed that he had not made a condemnation of the white supremacists earlier than Monday because he wanted to “make sure, unlike most politicians, that what [he] said was correct.” Trump is known to share his opinion often and freely, and is usually quick to take to Twitter. He has made numerous inaccurate claims, even falsely condemning two terror attacks in Sweden and Manila that did not actually happen.

The main issue with white supremacy is that it is not being held to the same standard as other forms of terrorism. It is not taken as seriously. Many lawmakers consider what happened in Charlottesville to be domestic terrorism, and would like to hold hearings on the topic of rising white supremacy. But according to Politico, “The House Homeland Security Committee is lumping the issue into an annual ‘global threats’ hearing scheduled sometime in September.”

Trump has always been adamant about calling Islamic terrorism by name, but it seems he has a double standard when it comes to domestic terrorism and white nationalists. Not all terrorism is “radical Islamic terrorism,” and calling it such can be both inaccurate and insulting. “The phrase connotes a direct link between the mainstream of the Muslim faith and the violent acts of a few,” said Emile Nakleh, a former director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program. If only Trump’s persistence that “to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is, or at least say the name” applied to white supremacy as well. White supremacy and violent rallies should never be tolerated, and that must always be clearly said.

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TORCH EDITORIAL: President Gives White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi Groups Validation and Cover by Not Labeling Them Domestic Terrorists