State leaders react to Charlottesville violence

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville appeared to pit white nationalists against the liberal left. President Trump that day condemned the hatred generally, but was criticized for not being more specific.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” Trump tweeted.

Monday at the White House, Trump capitulated to public pressure and named some groups on the far right.

“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.” he said.

Part of being president is getting it right when a national tragedy occurs and the public is looking to the leader for the right words. Many people seem to think Trump failed that mission this weekend.

Congressman Bill Pascrell called a news conference to criticize Trump. He said white supremacists feel newly emboldened by this president.

“For years they saw the winks and the nods from political leaders. These quiet signals and masked language were dog whistles for separatist groups. Now their beliefs are validated by the President who took white nationalism to the dance during his campaign. And they are reinforced when the president fair to explicitly condemn their beliefs and acts,” he said.

The news conference outside Secaucus City Hall took place an hour before Trump delivered his revised statement. The rhetoric was fiery.

“Let’s get one thing clear. For the first time in American history, the president of the U.S. is an accomplice to terrorism,” said the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, David Goldstein.

“We condemn Donald Trump’s tepid response to a horrific act, which amounted to nothing more than a wink-wink and a nod-nod to his white supremacist, racist, neo-nazi sympathizers and friends and colleagues in the oval office,” said the communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Abdul-Alim Mubarak-Rowe.

The president of New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck, Kenneth Frazier, announced Monday that he is resigning from the president’s manufacturing advisory council. Frazier is African-American and said he was taking a stand against intolerance and extremism. Trump brushed that off with a tweet about lowering rip-off drug prices at Merck. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are six white supremacist groups in New Jersey.

“Racial bigotry is not just a southern problem. There are hate groups right here in our backyard in New Jersey,” said Pascrell.

Steve Rogers, a Trump media advisor in New Jersey says the weekend’s outrage against Trump’s initial statement was not warranted.

“The people criticizing President Trump, they were not quick to criticize President Obama when he did not come out and criticize during the latter part of his administration Black Lives Matter, at which people were marching through the streets chanting ‘let’s kill cops,’” Rogers said.

Following Monday’s Trump statement, Rogers said, it’s time to cut the president some slack. “I give him a pass on this. He’s a human being. And sometimes we have to say to ourselves, we’re human. We may have to say more at a specific time, but he came back and he decided, you know what? This is what needs to be said and I think that’s the key there.”

Others saw a president just cleaning it up.