The immediate backlash President Trump faced on Tuesday only intensified overnight after he doubled down on his assertion that “both sides” were to blame for deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
“There are two sides to a story,” Trump insisted on Tuesday, echoing his widely denounced comments on Saturday, as the violence was unfolding in Virginia.
There were “a lot of bad people in the other group too,” he added in reference to the anti-racist protesters demonstrating against the rally, one of whom, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed when a driver rammed his car into a group of the counter-protesters.
Trump also said there were “very fine people” on both sides, including those participating in the white nationalist rally. “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” he said.
His comments, delivered in front of the elevator bank in Trump Tower in Manhattan, were met with protests outside the skyscraper on Fifth Avenue—and with a mix of outrage and incredulity across the nation.
“We want him to hear us,” actor Mark Ruffalo said as he, Michael Moore and Olivia Wilde participated in a candlelight vigil for Heyer on the street outside Trump Tower, where the president was spending the night.
“We want him to know that an American killed on American soil by a Nazi is not acceptable. That there is no equivalence, there is no many sides,” said Ruffalo.
“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he added.
The blowback was swift on Twitter, where critics slammed the president as “a racist” and accused him of sending a “dog whistle to white supremacists.”
“Gee, thanks a lot Mr President,” tweeted Bryan Cranston. “Denouncing Nazis used to be the one thing the whole country could agree on. Now all we have left are Zombies.”
Basketball star LeBron James spoke out during his annual family reunion charitable event Tuesday night at Cedar Point amusement park.
“I know there’s a lot of tragic things happening in Charlottesville,” James said, according to ESPN. “I just want to speak on it right now. I have this platform and I’m somebody that has a voice of command, and the only way for us to be able to get better as a society and us to get better as people is love. And that’s the only way we’re going to be able to conquer something at the end of the day.”
He continued, “It’s not about the guy that’s the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case. It’s not about a teacher that you don’t feel like cares about what’s going on with you every day. It’s not about people that you just don’t feel like want to give the best energy and effort to you. It’s about us. It’s about us looking in the mirror. Kids all the way up to the adults. It’s about all of us looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What can we do better to help change?’ And if we can all do that and give 110 percent … then that’s all you can ask for.”
James also took to Twitter with his reaction.
“Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again!” he wrote. “Statues has nothing to do with us now!”
Lady Gaga tweeted out a poll asking followers: “Do you think @realDonaldTrump @POTUS saying “both sides are to blame” in #Charlottesville makes him a racist supporter? Yes or no?”
Hours after violence erupted at the rally on Saturday, Trump gave a statement condemning the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
Meanwhile, Lena Dunham is worried about how her followers’ mental health is standing up to the latest from Trump.
“You don’t have to be informed minute to minute at the expense of your ability to sleep, eat etc. Zero shame in being exhausted and scared,” she tweeted. “If watching the news or scrolling through twitter is triggering you for any number of reasons, it’s okay to take a step back.”
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Facing overwhelming backlash from politicians on both sides of the aisle, Trump gave a second statement Monday in which he specifically condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacists and declared, “Racism is evil.”
“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.
On Tuesday, Trump defended his Saturday statement, saying it “was a fine statement” and adding that he wanted to make sure that he had the facts before speaking again on the issue.
“Before I make a statement, I need the facts, so I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent,” he said.
At least one person applauded the president following his Tuesday remarks — former KKK leader David Duke.
“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about
#Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke tweeted Tuesday evening.
At the close of his incendiary remarks on Tuesday, mentioned a large “house” he owns in Charlottesville. Asked if he meant his winery, he said yes.
“I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville,” Trump said. “Charlottesville is a great place that’s been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in Charlottesville.”