On Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump tried for a do-over, condemning what he called this weekend’s “racist violence” in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a statement at the White House.
“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 that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said. “We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal.”
It was a marked contrast from the president’s initial reactions to the events in Charlottesville this weekend. At first, Trump conspicuously refused to condemn white supremacism or white nationalism, instead reading a vague statement Saturday condemning “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” On Sunday, criticism poured in from Democrats and Republicans, but Trump still remained silent throughout the day.
Now, he’s trying to turn the page on the controversy with this new statement.
It’s a pattern that’s familiar for Trump. During the presidential campaign, he initially refused to disavow David Duke and the KKK, before being pressured into doing so. Then, in September 2016, Trump tried to reopen the question of whether he believed Barack Obama was born in the United States — a racist conspiracy theory he had fanned for years — before giving a begrudging statement claiming that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”
It’s also a marked contrast with Trump’s seeming eagerness to rush to judgment when he thinks a terror incident involving Muslims is unfolding, and to criticize Democrats for insufficiently describing what he sees as the ideology behind the attacks (“radical Islamic terrorism”).
But Trump’s initial statement Saturday and the long wait until mid-Monday for a stronger condemnation is sure to raise questions about how sincere he really is.