BEDMINSTER, N.J. • President Donald Trump on Saturday condemned “all types of racism and acts of violence” on the anniversary of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., calling for the nation to “come together” after a week in which he stoked racial divisions with attacks on black athletes and other minorities.
Taking to Twitter ahead of a controversial “Unite the Right 2” white supremacist rally Sunday in Washington, Trump decried the “senseless death and division” spawned by what he called the “riots in Charlottesville.” A counterprotester was killed when a man who police say identified himself as a Nazi drove a car into a crowd.
“I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence,” Trump wrote. “Peace to ALL Americans!”
The remarks stood in stark contrast to Trump’s reaction a year ago — when he declared that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville — and followed a week of racially incendiary statements by the president and allies. Trump insulted the intelligence of NBA star LeBron James and CNN anchor Don Lemon, both of whom are black, reignited his crusade against black football players protesting police brutality and told a group of business leaders that Chinese students studying in the United States were spies.
One of the few African-Americans to have worked in the White House, former special assistant Omarosa Manigault Newman, also accuses Trump of being a racist in a book to be released Tuesday.
During a “Bikers for Trump” event here in Bedminster on Saturday, the president said that Manigault Newman was a “lowlife.”
Trump — who kicked off his presidential campaign in 2015 by labeling Mexicans illegally present in the United States as criminals and “rapists” — has repeatedly used racial and ethnic differences as political wedges, rarely attempting to bridge cultural differences as Barack Obama and other predecessors did.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a statement Saturday that Trump shares responsibility for the violence in Charlottesville.
“These purveyors of hate and bigotry were emboldened to take their message public by a President who has refused to categorically and unequivocally condemn their message and actions in clear terms,” Warner wrote.
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, running for the U.S. Senate from Utah, said in an essay published Friday that he disagreed with Trump’s declaration that many “good people” had taken part on the white nationalist side of the Charlottesville event. “People who knowingly march under the Nazi banner have disqualified themselves as ‘good people,’ “ Romney wrote.
On his attacks on black athletes, cable news personalities or members of Congress, Trump allies argue that he is merely swinging back at opponents when provoked. White House aides also say Trump loves the attack on NFL players kneeling for the national anthem and seeks out reasons and stories to tweet about it.
Trump’s political base is overwhelmingly white and older, and he won the 2016 presidential election in part by rallying white voters who do not have college degrees. The perceived erosion of former cultural and economic touchstones — the American flag, the steel and mining industries — were mainstays of his campaign. Immigration, which Trump has called a “disaster,” and the wall he wants to build on the Mexican border are among his most consistent themes. He counts few minorities among his top advisers or friends.
Christopher Malone, a political-science professor and dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Molloy College, said Trump’s racially charged outbursts are part of an effort to appeal to whites, especially those with a sense of cultural grievance.
Trump has stayed quiet about this weekend’s planned demonstration by potentially hundreds of white nationalists at Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.
He will remain in New Jersey on Sunday.
Trump, several current and former aides said, does not use racial slurs in private or make comments that demean minorities among his aides.