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Trump Condemns Violence in Charlottesville, Saying ‘Racism Is Evil’

August 14, 2017
By

Even after a wave of disapproval that encompassed a majority of Senate Republicans — and stronger statements delivered by allies including Vice President Mike Pence and the president’s own daughter Ivanka — Mr. Trump seemed reluctant to tackle the issue head-on when he appeared before the cameras on Monday.

He first offered a lengthy and seemingly out-of-place recitation of his accomplishments on the economy, trade and job creation. When he did address the violence in Charlottesville, he did not apologize, but presented his corrective as an update on the Department of Justice civil rights investigation into the death of a woman who was allegedly hit by a car driven by an Ohio protester with ties to neo-Nazi groups.

“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered,” he said.

As Mr. Trump was delivering the kind of statement his critics had demanded over the weekend, Fox News reported that the president is considering pardoning former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a political ally accused of federal civil rights violations for allegedly mistreating prisoners, many of them black and Hispanic.

“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” the president said in an interview Sunday — at the height of the controversy over Charlottesville — speaking to the network at his club in Bedminster, N.J. “He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him.”

Mr. Trump has had a career-long pattern of delaying and muting his criticism of white nationalism. During the 2016 campaign he refused to immediately denounce David Duke, a former Klansman who supported his candidacy.

Some human rights activists, skeptical that his remarks represent a change in approach on the issue, called for him to fire the nationalists working in the West Wing, a group of hard-right populists led by Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist.

“The president should make sure that no one on his staff has ties to white supremacists,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a telephone briefing on Monday afternoon, adding, “nor should they be on the payroll of the American people.”

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He said that the Department of Justice and the Office of Government Ethics should “do an investigation and make that determination” if anyone in the White House had ties to hate groups.

Mr. Trump and his staff have consistently denied any connection to such organizations, and the president called for racial harmony in his remarks on Monday.

“As I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws.” he said. “We all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence.”

Two themes — uniting the country while defending himself — collided on Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed earlier Monday.

Merck’s chief executive, Kenneth C. Frazier, resigned from the president’s American Manufacturing Council, saying he objected to the president’s statement on Saturday blaming violence that left one woman dead on “many sides.”

“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Mr. Frazier said in a tweet announcing he was stepping down from the panel. Mr. Frazier is one of just a handful of black chief executives of a Fortune 500 company.

Less than hour later, Mr. Trump, responded on social media as he departed his golf resort in Bedminster for a day trip back to Washington.

Mr. Trump’s shot at one of the country’s best-known black executives prompted an immediate outpouring of support for Mr. Frazier from major figures in business, media and politics. “Thanks @Merck Ken Frazier for strong leadership to stand up for the moral values that made this country what it is,” Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, wrote on Twitter.

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It’s not unusual for Mr. Trump to attack, via Twitter, any public figure who ridicules, criticizes or even mildly questions his actions. But his decision to take on Mr. Frazier, a self-made multimillionaire who rose from a modest childhood in Philadelphia to attend Harvard Law School, was extraordinary given the wide-ranging criticism he has faced from both parties for not forcefully denouncing the neo-Nazis and Klan sympathizers who rampaged in Charlottesville.

Mr. Frazier appeared next to Mr. Trump at the White House just last month to announce an agreement among drug makers that would create 1,000 jobs.

He is only the second African-American executive to lead a major pharmaceutical firm, and rose to prominence as Merck’s general counsel, when he successfully defended the company against class-action lawsuits stemming from complications involving the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx.

“It took Trump 54 minutes to condemn Merck CEO Ken Frazier, but after several days he still has not condemned murdering white supremacists,” Keith Boykin, a former aide to President Bill Clinton who comments on politics and race for CNN, wrote in a tweet.

Mr. Frazier’s exit from the business council marks a mini-exodus of business leaders, resulting from the president’s stances on social issues and the environment. His recent decision to leave the Paris climate accord prompted Elon Musk of Tesla to resign, as did the chief executive of Disney, Bob Iger.

Correction: August 14, 2017

An earlier version of this article misquoted part of President Trump’s statement on the violence in Charlottesville, Va. He blamed “many sides,” not “all sides,” for the violence that left one woman dead.

Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting.


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/14/us/politics/trump-charlottesville-protest.html

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