White House: 'Of course' Donald Trump condemns white supremacists

Alan McGuinness, News Reporter

Donald Trump's condemnation of violence and hate includes "white supremacists", the White House has said.

The President was criticised in the wake of deadly violence at a far-right rally for blaming "many sides" for the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, and not explicitly condemning the white extremist groups.

The rally was held to condemn a decision by the city to remove a statue of General Robert E Lee, a Confederate commander during the Civil War.

It was met by counter-protesters and events quickly turned ugly, with mass brawls breaking out between them and anti-fascists.

The violence left one person dead and dozens more injured.

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Democrats and Republicans said the President should denounce hate groups by name.

The city's mayor, Democrat Mike Signer, said he blamed Mr Trump for inflaming racial prejudices during his successful campaign for the White House, while Colorado Republican senator Cory Gardner said the President "must call evil by its name".

The critical voices included former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who told ABC News Mr Trump should have been "much harsher" in his response to the violence.

In response to the criticism, the White House said in a statement: "The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups.

"He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together."

Mr Trump's national security adviser, Lieutenant General HR McMaster, said the President had been "very clear" that "we cannot tolerate this kind of bigotry".

He also denied Mr Trump's initial statement suggested moral equivalence between the far-right demonstrators and the counter-protesters.

Lt Gen McMaster told NBC's Meet the Press: "What he (Mr Trump) did is he called on all Americans to take a firm stand against it.

"This is a great opportunity for us to ask ourselves: what are we teaching our children?

"Tolerance has to overcome this kind of hatred. This kind of hatred that is grounded really in ignorance. Ignorance of our values and what makes us unique as Americans."

Mr Signer told the same programme that the killing of a 32-year-old woman when a car rammed into a group of people demonstrating against the white supremacists was a "terrorist attack with a car used as a weapon".

Heather Heyer was crossing the street when she was struck, with the vehicle also hitting a group of anti-Nazi campaigners.

The car's driver, James Alex Fields Jr, has been charged with second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count relating to leaving the scene.

Lieutenant H Jay Cullen and Trooper-pilot Berke MM Bates also died after a Virginia State Police helicopter that had been assisting with policing the rally crashed.

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