President Trump belatedly denounced violence specifically by white supremacist groups Monday, singling out the KKK and neo-Nazis by name after a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Racism is evil,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Noting that the Justice Department has opened a civil-rights investigation into a deadly car attack, the president said, “To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered.”
His comments came after days of criticism from people in both parties that Mr. Trump hadn’t disavowed white nationalists specifically Saturday, when one woman was killed and 19 injured after a man drove a car into a crowd demonstrating against neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At the time, the president decried violence committed “on many sides.”
The president’s critics said his new statement was too little, too late.
“I think it was grossly inadequate,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC. “It was clearly a statement based on the pressure that he had been given over the weekend. If it takes a weekend to get the president of the United States to denounce Nazis and racism and white supremacy, then I don’t think that’s very encouraging to the American public.”
Mr. Trump held a previously unscheduled meeting at the White House Monday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and new FBI Director Christopher Wray to receive an update on the situation in Charlottesville.
The president seemed determined in his followup statement about the violence to remind Americans that he has already spoken out about hate groups. Some advisers had pressed the president to give a specific condemnation of white nationalist groups, as Vice President Mike Pence had done earlier.
“As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” Mr. Trump said. “It has no place in America. And as I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws. We all salute the same great flag. And we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence.”
The president paid tribute to Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed in the car attack, and to two Virginia state troopers who died when their police helicopter crashed nearby.
“Her death fills us with grief, and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers, and our love,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Heyer.
Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were aboard the Bell 407 helicopter when it crashed seven miles from downtown Charlottesville. They were helping to monitor the white nationalist rally in the area.
The president said the troopers “exemplified the very best of America. Our hearts go out to their families, their friends and every member of American law enforcement.”
“These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation,” Mr. Trump said.
The president said he promised as a candidate to restore law and order.
“Our federal law enforcement agencies are following through on that pledge,” he said. “We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear. We will defend and protect the sacred rights of all Americans.”