The way John Oliver sees it, the moment was a no-brainer for President Trump.

White nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis had gathered to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville. The “Unite the Right” rally and the counterprotests it spurred had descended into chaos and violence that killed three, injured many others and dominated headlines over the weekend.

And when the president spoke to the nation about the incident, Oliver said, all he had to do was denounce the Nazis — but he didn’t.

“In a country where previous presidents have actually had to defeat Nazis, we now have one who cannot even be bothered to f—ing condemn them,” Oliver said Sunday night on his show, “Last Week Tonight.”

“ … It simply doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis. It’s as much of a presidential gimme as pardoning a f—ing turkey. It is almost impossible to screw it up. But that’s exactly what happened.”

Oliver was part of a growing chorus of people who torched the president for not going far enough to condemn the hatred and bigotry at the heart of the violent display at Emancipation Park.

Speaking hours after the outbreak of violence, the president told reporters:  “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” Then, for emphasis, he added: “On many sides.”

Republican and Democratic politicians criticized President Trump for not calling out white supremacy while administration officials defended his statement. (Bastien Inzaurralde, Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

As The Post’s Jenna Johnson and Karoun Demirjian reported on Sunday, Republican Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) urged the president to use the words “white supremacists” and deem what happened in Charlottesville a terrorist attack.

And Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) had stronger words:

After the president spoke, neo-Nazis and white nationalists called Trump’s words part of his continuing support for their movement.

“No condemnation at all,” wrote a live blog for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. “When asked to condemn, just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

As Johnson and Demirjian wrote:

Trump and some members of his staff have long been accused of quietly pandering to white nationalists, bigots and anti-Semites. Trump’s chief strategist is Stephen K. Bannon, who formerly ran the right-wing Breitbart News and advocated for what he calls the “alt-right” movement.
Prominent white nationalists have celebrated Trump’s immigration proposals, attempts to bar foreigners from majority-Muslim countries and his criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. On the campaign trail, Trump defended tweeting an image that had been circulating on white supremacy websites and featured his rival Hillary Clinton, cash and a Star of David. In late January, the president released a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day that recognized “the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust” but made no mention of the millions of Jews murdered.

Speaking at the rally before President Trump’s statement, David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard told reporters “We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s what why we voted for Donald Trump because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

Trump surrogates spent Sunday deflecting criticism directed at the president.

Trump’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, praised the president on CNN for not naming hate groups that were involved and instead focusing on an overarching call for Americans to love one another.

But Oliver pointed out the president had multiple chances to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The show aired two instances during Trump’s post-Charlottesville news conference where reporters yelled out to the president if he had stronger words of condemnation.

After one, Trump walked back to the lectern — but it was to make an announcement about where he’d sign a bill on veterans’ medical care.

“For a second, as he came back to the podium, I thought for a second, maybe he’s about to say the right thing,” Oliver said. “But of course not. He had one last shot before the buzzer on the racism clock hit zero, and he threw up an air ball so far away it landed right in the Third Reich.”

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