What the commentators said
Trump’s response to the Charlottesville killing fits into an “ugly pattern”, said Matthew d’Ancona in The Guardian. Earlier this year, the president claimed to be “the least racist person”, but his record suggests otherwise. In the 1980s, he backed a high-profile campaign for the death penalty for five black and Latino youths accused – and later acquitted – of a murder in Central Park; he popularised the conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Kenya; and he has retweeted the messages of white supremacists. He seems perfectly happy “to surf on the tide of white resentment” that swept him to power. His claim that “many sides” were to blame for the Charlottesville violence was no “throwaway” remark, said Josh Levin on Slate. He twice repeated the phrase as if it was the only part of the speech that he “truly believed”. The racists who chanted “Heil Trump” in Virginia surely know they have an “ally in The White House”. What worries me is their wider support, said Jia Tolentino in The New Yorker. One striking aspect of the clashes in Charlottesville was how the police “stood calmly by” as armed men paraded through a quiet college town. “The message is sickening and unmistakable.” Black people angry at the murder of teenagers are “met with tanks and riot gear”; white people waving Nazi and Confederate flags are “met with politesse”. The spectacle of uniformed men marching under swastika banners and flaming torches was indeed “stomach-turning”, said Melanie Phillips in The Times. But the other side are no innocents. The anti-fascist “Antifa” movement has a record of violence and rioting. Yet their behaviour is routinely “ignored, downplayed or even endorsed” by the Democrats and their “media acolytes”. In refusing to single out the white supremacists for criticism, Trump may genuinely have felt that “both warring sides had unconscionable agendas”.