Hillary Clinton’s statement in response to an outbreak of violence at Republican Party front-runner Donald Trump’s Chicago rally was aimed at encouraging political unity. But instead, many reacted to her statement with disappointment.
“The divisive rhetoric we are seeing should be of grave concern to us all,” Clinton said in the statement issued after midnight on Saturday morning. “We all have our differences, and we know many people across the country feel angry.”
“We need to address that anger together,” she added.
Clinton then evoked the massacre in Charleston, S.C., which left nine African American churchgoers dead. She pointed to it as an example of how the country can overcome its divisions.
“The families of those victims came together and melted hearts in the statehouse and the Confederate flag came down,” Clinton said. “That should be the model we strive for to overcome painful divisions in our country.”
Trump was never mentioned in the statement itself. And unlike some of Trump’s Republican rivals, who laid the blame for inciting violence squarely on his shoulders, Clinton avoided addressing Trump’s role at all.
The decision left some puzzled.
“Problematic use of Charleston. Why is racial healing always dependent on black forgiveness?” noted Chad Williams, chair of African and Afro-American studies at Brandeis University.
— Chad Williams (@Dr_ChadWilliams) March 12, 2016
Goldie Taylor, editor-at-large at the Daily Beast, also took issue with the statement.
“Refusing to directly call out Trump is a problem,” she said.
Refusing to directly call out Trump is a problem. https://t.co/XKLrq8vUb0
— Auntie Goldie (@goldietaylor) March 12, 2016
“Clinton’s response seems more concerned about the fact that protesters fought back than with the racism and nativism of Trump’s rallies,” added Eddie S. Glaude Jr., a professor of African-American studies at Princeton University.
Clinton's response seems more concerned about the fact that protesters fought back than with the racism and nativism of Trump's rallies.
— Eddie S. Glaude Jr. (@esglaude) March 12, 2016
Clinton has in the past called out Trump directly — from the stump and online — for campaigning on what she has called “bluster and bigotry.”
Later on Saturday, Clinton addressed Trump more directly in a statement, criticizing him for encouraging violence at his rallies.
"The ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it's dangerous," Clinton said at an event in St. Louis. "If you play with matches, you're going to start a fire you can't control."
"That's not leadership. That's political arson," she added.
In recent weeks, she has used Trump as a foil for her own message, adding a line to her stump speech that plays off of Trump’s slogan Make America Great Again.
“We don’t need to make America great again, we need to make America whole,” Clinton said.
As recently as this week, Clinton tweeted at Trump blaming him for failing to denounce violence at his rallies.
“Condoning violence against protesters and press at your rallies is the real disgrace,” she said.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 11, 2016
But while Friday night’s melee in Chicago prompted some conservatives, including Trump’s rival, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to note the well-documented history of violence at Trump’s events, Clinton stayed silent on the issue.
“Tonight the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit, and it was ugly,” Kasich said in a statement.