Trump Says Racism is “Evil,” Calls Neo-Nazis and KKK Criminals

This comes after Trump was criticised for failing to respond more forcefully to the Charlottesville violence.

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World
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Donald Trump. (Photo: AP)

US President Donald Trump denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as criminals and thugs on Monday, bowing to mounting political pressure after initially saying many sides were to blame after a white-nationalist rally turned deadly in Virginia.

Trump had been assailed by Republicans and Democrats alike for failing to respond more forcefully to Saturday's violence in Charlottesville, in which a woman was killed when a man crashed his car into a group of counter-protesters.

Critics said the president had waited too long to address the bloodshed, and slammed him for initially saying that “many sides” were involved, rather than explicitly condemning white supremacists widely seen as sparking the melee.

“Racism is evil and 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,” Trump said in a statement to reporters at the White House.

Trump said America showed its true character in such times, responding to hate with love and to division with unity.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” he said.

“It has no place in America ... 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.”

A 20-year-old man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies as a teenager was facing charges he plowed his car into protesters opposing the white nationalists, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people. The accused, James Alex Fields, was denied bail at an initial court hearing on Monday.

Trump said anyone who engaged in criminal behavior over the weekend in Virginia will be held accountable. "Justice will be delivered," the president said in his address.

“I wish that he would have said those same words on Saturday,” responded Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia on MSNBC. “I'm disappointed it took him a couple of days.”

Activist Al Sharpton echoed that. “It took 48 hours ... It was clearly a statement based on the pressure that he had been given over the weekend,” he said on MSNBC.

Earlier on Monday, in a strong rebuke to Trump, the chief executive of one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, Merck & Co Inc, resigned from a business panel led by the president, citing a need for leadership countering bigotry.

CEO Kenneth Frazier, who is black, did not name Trump in his statement, but the rebuke was implicit. “America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy,” said Frazier.

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