President Trump's off-the-rails Tuesday news conference — in which he once again blamed “both sides” in Charlottesville, effectively undoing his earlier conciliatory remarks — earned him another wave of backlash from world leaders Wednesday.
British Prime Minister Theresa May didn't call Trump out by name but said in a statement Wednesday there was “no equivalence” between the two sides.
Chaos erupted in Charlottesville over the weekend after white supremacist groups that had gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally clashed with counterprotesters. After the planned rally was canceled, a car plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one person and injuring 19 others. Police later arrested 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio, who was identified by a former teacher as being a longtime Nazi sympathizer.
“I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them,” May said. “I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far right views wherever we hear them.”
Trump's remarks renewed calls by some British leaders and activists for his state visit to the country to be canceled, according to the Guardian.
— Press Association (@PA) August 16, 2017
Similarly, the European Commission mentioned neither Trump nor Charlottesville but, in a tweet Wednesday morning, reiterated the European Union's founding principles: liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamentals, and the rule of law.
“We reject and condemn all forms and manifestations of racism and xenophobia,” the commission stated. “They are incompatible with the values and principles upon which the E.U. is founded.”
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) August 16, 2017
Others were more explicit in their criticism of Trump. Germany Justice Minister Heiko Maas blasted Trump's Tuesday news conference as one that sugarcoated the racist violence from the weekend.
“It is unbearable how Trump is now glossing over the violence of the right-wing hordes from Charlottesville,” Maas said in a statement, according to Reuters. “No one should trivialize anti-Semitism and racism by neo-Nazis.”
— Heiko Maas (@HeikoMaas) August 16, 2017
Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (of which Maas is also a member), didn't mince words.
“Nazis must be confronted decisively,” Schulz said. “What Trump is doing is highly incendiary. Those who downplay violence and hate betray the values of the West!”
Nazis muss man entschieden entgegentreten. Was Trump macht ist brandgefährlich. Wer Gewalt & Hass verharmlost, verrät die Werte des Westens!
— Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) August 16, 2017
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei implied in a tweet that the Charlottesville violence was evidence the United States needed to get its own house in order before intervening in other countries' affairs.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) August 16, 2017
Trump’s initial public remarks on the violence in Charlottesville were criticized by many, including members of his own political party, for being insufficient and vague. On Monday, the president specifically called out “the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups” in unscheduled remarks at the White House, though some criticized Trump's comments as too little, too late.
However, on Tuesday, Trump seemed to revert to his original sentiments in a terse exchange with reporters at what was supposed to be a news conference about infrastructure:
Reporter: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
TRUMP: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs — and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side. There was a group on this side. You can call them the left — you just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.
TRUMP: Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it, either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say.
Reporter: The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest —
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group.
Politicians in the United States have reacted with varying degrees of outrage to Trump's shifting remarks on Charlottesville. Trump's unscripted speech reportedly caught senior White House aides by surprise.
Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.