President Donald Trump condemned hate groups, including white supremacists, in remarks from the White House on Monday, after receiving criticism for his initial statement on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
“Racism is evil,” said Trump, two days after a driver rammed a car into a crowd of people in the midst of violent clashes over a white nationalist rally in the city. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Trump’s immediate response to the violence, which did not label the ramming an act of terrorism or include a denunciation of white supremacists, was met with bipartisan backlash. In remarks on the rally and subsequent clashes from his golf club in New Jersey on Saturday, he condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
A White House official later elaborated on Trump’s comments, indicating that he was opposed to the “hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides” and noting that “there was violence between protesters and counterprotesters.”
Trump’s address on Monday came after a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. Trump noted on Saturday that the Department of Justice opened a federal civil rights investigation into the ramming and addressed those who contributed to the violence in Charlottesville.
“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,” said Trump. “Justice will be delivered.”
On Monday morning, Sessions defended Trump’s initial response, telling ABC News that “he explicitly condemned the kind of ideology behind these movements of Nazism, white supremacy, the KKK.”
“That is his unequivocal position,” said Sessions.
He added that the attack met “the definition of domestic terrorism.”
Trump did not use the term “terrorism” during his speech on Monday.