President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a congressional joint resolution condemning the violence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists during a rally in Virginia last month, despite his equivocating on the matter during a meeting the day before with the Senate’s only black Republican.
“As Americans, we condemn the recent violence in Charlottesville and oppose hatred, bigotry, and racism in all forms,” Trump said in a statement issued by the office of the press secretary late Thursday.
He added: “No matter the color of our skin or our ethnic heritage, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God.”
Yet while recounting his Oval Office meeting with Sen. Tim Scott (R.-S.C.), an African-American leader with whom he discussed race relations and the Charlottesville events, the president on Thursday reverted to rhetoric that seemingly spread the blame for the violence to both sides.
“I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said,” Trump said aboard Air Force One, referring to the militant movement of self-styled anti-fascists. “Now because of what’s happened since then with Antifa, when you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying — and people have actually written — ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’”
The president’s initial response to the deadly clashes between hate groups and counter-protesters in Virginia, in which he blamed “many sides” for escalating hostilities, drew widespread criticism from lawmakers and business leaders across the political spectrum. In a news conference several days later, Trump doubled down on the comments, lashing out at the “alt-left” for its alleged part in instigating the clashes.
Earlier this week, congressional lawmakers passed a resolution condemning the deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia on Aug. 11 and 12. The measure included language urging Trump to “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the president’s intent to sign the resolution during a news briefing on Wednesday, telling reporters that Trump “was clear in his initial statement” condemning “hatred, bigotry, racism of all forms.