(CNN)The racists had been on parade for parts of two days, but it was only around 20 minutes before reports — and graphic video — of the attack that killed a protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, went public on Saturday that President Donald Trump logged on.
“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for,” he tweeted. “There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”
Trump’s subsequent live comments, delivered hours later, were panned by both Democrats and Republicans. On-camera and online, he was unusually vague. Owner of Twitter’s most feared account, to say nothing of the Presidential bully pulpit, Trump turned suddenly circumspect.
An innocent woman had been killed peacefully demonstrating and the President, perpetually animated by his anger, assigned the blame, meekly, to “many sides.” No mention of neo-Nazis or white supremacists, no condemnation of their hateful ideology. Graded by his own standard, Trump’s remarks came off like an artful dodge. One he wouldn’t even attempt to address for another two days.
The most positive review of his initial response came from the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi and white supremacist website, which wrote, “Trump comments were good,” noting that he “refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him” and that, “when asked to condemn, (Trump) just walked out of the room.”
By the time Trump returned, on Monday afternoon, to offer a more pointed response, the moment had passed. No matter what he said, his initial refusal to name the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-gay (the list goes on) demonstrators in Charlottesville would always say more.
“Trump’s belated criticism of his staunchest supporters — racist, Nazi, KKK terrorists — rings hollow,” said Murshed Zaheed, the liberal group CREDO’s political director, in an email after Monday’s brief speech. “When it is politically convenient, Trump frequently and aggressively bullies individuals and organizations by name, but in this case, he disgracefully protected white supremacist Nazis for days before speaking out.”