Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to write – unless I was reviewing Amazon’s alternate history TV series “The Man in the High Castle.” Last week, the president of the United States held a press conference and defended Nazis and Klansmen.
It was actually Trump’s third attempt to deal with the tragic aftermath of the Aug. 12th white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., when a 20-year-old Nazi ran over 19 peaceful anti-Nazi protestors, severely injuring five and killing 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer.
And in case there was any confusion about which end of the political spectrum these monsters resided on, they helpfully named their rally “Unite The Right.”
The event resulted in the first act of terrorism on U.S. soil since Donald Trump took office. Yet curiously, the normally tough-talking, “truth-telling” Trump couldn’t bring himself to officially call what happened “terrorism,” even after his own attorney general and national security advisor made that perfectly clear.
In an epically disastrous press conference from Trump Tower, during which Trump was supposed to focus on infrastructure but instead went rogue and lashed out at the press, he was asked why it took him so long to condemn what happened in Charlottesville. He claimed seven times in a row that he wanted to make sure he had “all the facts” before he commented.
It took nearly three days after Nazis committed terrorism in Virginia before Trump felt comfortable having “all the facts,” then anemically denounced Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white supremacists in a single terse, scripted Teleprompter statement that resembled a hostage video.
As fate would have it, days later Jihadists in Barcelona ran over 120 people and killed 14 in eerily similar attacks. Strangely, despite the Charlottesville attack happening near Washington, D.C., and Barcelona being a world away, Trump got “all the facts” so quickly he was able to confidently condemn them as Islamic terrorists within mere hours of the incident.
While Trump was stilted and brief in his censure of Klansmen and Nazis during his Teleprompter statement, he was passionate and animated in his sympathy and defense of those same Klansmen and Nazis in the Trump Tower press conference, claiming that not everyone who attended the white supremacist rally was a neo-Nazi and that some were “very fine people.”
Trump then angrily declared that “both sides” shared responsibility for the tragedy, drawing an outrageous and asinine moral equivalence between Nazis and anti-Nazi protesters, and giving aid and comfort to the white supremacists who’d brandished torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us!”
When a pair of white supremacists blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, President Bill Clinton appeared at the memorial service for the victims and denounced the vile ideology that resulted in the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, helping heal a rattled nation.
When a 21-year-old white supremacist walked into a black church in Charleston, N.C., in 2015 and murdered nine African-Americans in an attempt to start a race war, President Obama attended the victims’ memorial service and even sang “Amazing Grace” to help heal a rattled nation.
When a white supremacist ran over 19 people and murdered a young woman on the streets of Virginia … Donald Trump didn’t even bother to attend the victim’s memorial service. In fact, he’d so botched his response to this national tragedy that the victim’s mother refused to take his call – which Trump only attempted to do three days after the attack.
Angry Trump supporters are predictably furious that Trump is being “unfairly” branded as racist and divisive for providing cover to Nazis and Klansmen, acting as if this is just an isolated incident of Trump being maligned by a hostile press and grossly “misinterpreted.”
I guess he was also misinterpreted when he was sued twice by the U.S. government for not renting to black families in the 1970s. And he was misinterpreted when he promoted a racist lie and claimed for five years that the first black president was “really” born in Africa.
And he was misinterpreted when he publicly offered to pay the legal fees of a violent Trump supporter who sucker-punched a black protester at one of his rallies.
And it was just a strange coincidence and bad luck that Trump was officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan for president, as well as “winning” the endorsement of every other major white nationalist group in America.
Unfortunately for Trump, Klansmen and Nazis were also the ones most delighted with his odious Trump Tower press conference: former Grand Dragon David Duke, white nationalist Richard Spencer and neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer all praised Trump for his “honesty and courage,” thanking him for having their backs.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what Trump apologists think he said in his abysmal Trump Tower press conference. What matters is how the rest of the world perceived Trump’s shameless equivocating and mincing of words.
And what they heard was a U.S. president who blew his shot at unifying the country, emboldened Nazis and Klansmen, and irrevocably surrendered his moral authority.
Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.