The White House sent out a list of talking points for Capitol Hill Republicans in the aftermath of a Trump press conference Tuesday in which the president again said “both sides” were to blame for the violence at the white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
The memo came hours after Trump appeared to draw a moral equivalency between racist demonstrators and counterprotesters and urged Republicans to say Trump was “entirely correct” in spreading the blame for the deadly Charlottesville protests, according to reports by CNN and CBS.
The press conference was supposed to discuss American infrastructure, but talk inevitably turned to Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and his vague initial response — it took the president two days to publicly condemn hate groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis after a white supremacist rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters on Saturday, killing a 32-year-old and injuring 20 others.
Trump’s off-the-cuff comments in the press conference at Trump Tower, including his insistence that “both sides” were responsible for the violence and claimed the so-called “alt-left” came "charging with clubs in their hands," earned explosive criticism Tuesday.
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The White House memo attempted to dial back Trump’s rhetoric, saying he was instead preaching equality under the law.
"Despite the criticism, the President reaffirmed some of our most important Founding principles: We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal under the law, and equal under our Constitution," reads one bullet point.
But if it’s equal treatment the White House was trying to project, they appeared to be leaning slightly to the right. The memo cited violent events carried out by far-left “extremists” like the Dallas sniper that killed five officers at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2016 and a shooting at a congressional baseball team practice where a Bernie Sanders supporter targeted GOP members of Congress. The memo didn’t include any acts of violence on the far-right side.
At least one prominent Republican wasn’t hearing it though. Sen. John McCain tweeted late Tuesday, "there's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so."
There's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry. The President of the United States should say so— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 16, 2017
Here are the talking points listed in the memo, as published by CNN:
• The President was entirely correct -- both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.
• Despite the criticism, the President reaffirmed some of our most important Founding principles: We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal under the law, and equal under our Constitution.
• He has been a voice for unity and calm, encouraging the country to "rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that brings us together as Americans."
• He called for the end of violence on all sides so that no more innocent lives would be lost. The President condemned the hate groups fueled by bigotry and racism over the weekend, and did so by name yesterday, but for the media that will never be enough.
• The media reacted with hysteria to the notion that counter-protesters showed up with clubs spoiling for a fight, a fact that reporters on the ground have repeatedly stated.
• Even a New York Times reporter tweeted that she "saw club-wielding 'antifa' beating white nationalists being led out of the park."
• The local ACLU chapter also tweeted: "Not sure who provoked first. Both sides were hitting each other at Justice Park before police arrived."
• We should not overlook the facts just because the media finds them inconvenient.
• From cop killing and violence at political rallies, to shooting at congressmen at a practice baseball game, extremists on the left have engaged in terrible acts of violence.
• The President is taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.
• The DOJ has opened a civil rights investigation into this weekend's deadly car attack.
• Last Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it had completed the largest prosecution of white supremacists in the nation's history.
• Leaders and the media in our country should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.