In his first remarks following the (apparent) white-supremacist terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, Donald Trump condemned “the hatred, bigotry, and violence — on many sides.” Which is to say: The president ostensibly decried the hatred of the (alleged) attacker — and of those whom he attacked.
Trump proceeded to dog-whistle a word of support to those who had come to the small Virginia city to protest the removal of Confederate monuments. The president implored Americans to “cherish their history.” He neglected to say a single unkind word about the “alt-right” or neo-Nazis, before he moved on to bragging about how many jobs he had already created.
Following a broad, bipartisan backlash to this performance, Trump tried again on Monday: This time, the president stipulated that racism was evil, and white supremacists were very bad.
These sentiments did not win Trump the unequivocal praise that he believed was his due.
So, on Tuesday, Trump decided to swap out his dog whistle for a foghorn — and tell David Duke what he wanted to hear.
“You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had some very fine people,” Trump said of those who came to Charlottesville to defend the honor of men who committed treason in defense of chattel slavery. “You had people who were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very very important statue, and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”
(The other name was Emancipation Park.)
“Was George Washington a slave-owner?” Trump asked, rhetorically. “So will George Washington now lose his status?”
“You’re changing history, you’re changing culture. And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”
Trump went on to say that there were “fine people” in the other group, too. But there were also troublemakers who “charged” people with baseball bats.
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right?” Trump asked. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?”