President Trump roiled opinion Tuesday by reversing himself and reiterating his claim that “both sides” of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., were to blame for violence that killed one woman and left many injured.
Trump made the remarks at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York, engaging in back-and-forth exchanges with reporters about what transpired in Charlottesville over the weekend.
“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” the president said. “What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch.”
Here’s a roundup of responses from editorial boards of U.S. newspapers:
The Washington Times: “The Sides of the Conflict”
“Nothing President Trump can say will satisfy the mob. Scheming since the morning after the November election to reverse the result, the mob is on a holy crusade to destroy Trump the interloper, and the president himself keeps assisting the project.
“He was at it again Tuesday, saying once more that ‘many sides’ were responsible for the violence last week in Charlottesville, that two of the sides came after each other with blood in their eyes, eager for a fight.”
The New York Times: “Mr. Trump Makes a Spectacle of Himself”
“In so doing, Mr. Trump took up many of the talking points of the white nationalists and far-right activists who have been complaining that the news media and the political establishment do not pay enough attention to leftists who call themselves anti-fascists. He also sympathized with the demonstrators’ demand — the announced reason for their rally — that Robert E. Lee’s statue in a Charlottesville park be saved. ”
“Washington politicians had hoped the recent appointment of John Kelly, a retired Marine general, as his chief of staff would instill some discipline in his chaotic administration. With similar hopes, others are trying to get Mr. Trump to fire his resident provocateur, Stephen Bannon. But the root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top.”
The Washington Post: “The Nation Can Only Weep”
“Yes, there are good and moral Americans who oppose the removal of statues of Confederate generals. Yes, there are reasonable Americans who fear that slaveholding Founding Fathers will be the next target. Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s comments Tuesday, we don’t find it difficult to distinguish between a monument to George Washington, say, and statues to Confederate generals that were erected in the 20th century with the goal of maintaining white supremacy.”
“That car in Charlottesville did not kill or wound just the 20 bodies it struck. It damaged the nation. Mr. Trump not only failed to help the country heal; he made the wound wider and deeper.”
Los Angeles Times: “Trump Doubles Down on His Irresponsible, Inexcusable Comments About Charlottesville”
“The racism displayed by some of Trump’s followers, and by the defenders of memorials to a romanticized past, is not an issue to be viewed through the usual left-right political prism. It should be viewed through the lens of history. The people who carried the torches through Charlottesville and chanted Nazi slogans were commemorating a genocidal ideology. White supremacists reflect the absolute worst part of our the nation’s history, as well as the country’s ongoing inability to bridge in a meaningful and sustainable way the gaps between the races.
“The president has been handed several opportunities in the last few days to take a decisive stand against bigotry and hatred, and he has repeatedly declined to do so.”
Miami Herald: “Trump Has Little Moral Authority to Condemn White Supremacists — They Helped Elect Him”
“Some of the most heartening statements condemning the carnage in Charlottesville have come from members of Trump’s own Republican Party. A surprising array broke from their usual lockstep behind him and recognized the threat that the white supremacist and neo-Nazi movements pose to people of conscience everywhere in this country — and to America’s very foundation of strength.”
“Few elected officials should be surprised by what happened in Charlottesville. Rather, they should be ashamed that they were, in some ways, enablers.”
Dallas Morning News: “When Trump Wavered on Charlottesville Violence, His Business Panel Wavered on Him”
“Who would have imagined that a tepid presidential response to a clash sparked by opposition to the removal of statues of Confederate war heroes would be the pivot point for at least four CEOs to step away from what should be valued seats on a panel tasked with shaping the president’s business policies? But if the president can’t come down hard on white supremacy, which amounts to a political layup, what’s the point of advising him on anything else?
“Clearly, these leaders worry that their presence on the panel would send the wrong message to employees and customers about discrimination, abuse and a hostile work environment.”