By: Joel B. Pollak
President Donald Trump reacted to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville by condemning violence “on many sides.” His critics pounced, saying that he should have specifically condemned violence by white supremacists, and that by not doing so, he in fact condoned such violence.
The critics are guilty of a double standard, and of exploiting the violence for political gain, widening America’s divisions at a time when national unity is the only proper course.
First of all, as a factual matter, it is self-evident that there was violence on both sides on Saturday, though the attack in which a car plowed into a crowd of left-wing protesters stands apart as a despicable act. Two groups who have been fighting all over the country — white supremacists and so-called “anti-fascists” — went to Charlottesville to do the same, just as they did last summer in Sacramento, and just as they have elsewhere. Condemning one side alone would essentially have given the other side a pass for its tactics — and a political victory that neither deserved.
Second, Trump’s critics never applied the same standard to Barack Obama. When five Dallas police officers were murdered in cold blood at a Black Lives Matter protest, Obama did not disavow the movement, nor did the media demand he do so. On the contrary, when he spoke at a memorial service for the police, he actually endorsed the movement and its goals: “I understand these protests — I see them. They can be messy. Sometimes they can be hijacked by an irresponsible few. Police can get hurt. Protesters can get hurt. They can be frustrated. But even those who dislike the phrase “black lives matter,” surely, we should be able to hear the pain of Alton Sterling’s family. … With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right. (Alton Sterling was shot by officers in Baton Rouge; he was armed and had allegedly threatened someone with a gun.)
When presented with an opportunity to disavow his racist pastor, Jeremiah Wright, then-candidate Obama gave an entire speech about how he could not do so: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” The media swooned and compared him to Abraham Lincoln. (He eventually disavowed Wright — but only after a substitute preacher, Michael Pfleger, attacked Hillary Clinton from the pulpit, at a time when Obama needed to consolidate Clinton supporters for the general election.)
Third, many of those attacking Trump today did not make the same demand of Democrats just two months ago, when five Republicans were shot and wounded by a left-wing gunman in Alexandria. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) even managed to blame Republicans for the shooting by allegedly inflaming political rhetoric during the Bill Clinton era.
Fourth, the media and the Democrats blame Trump for violence even when he, and his supporters are the target of that violence. Last June in San Jose, California, Trump supporters were viciously attacked by left-wing thugs as they left a rally. Some media reported the riot as if Trump supporters had started the violence (“Trump supporters clash with protesters“), while Democrat Mayor Sam Liccardo blamed Trump and his campaign for what happened.
Finally, the claim that Trump has failed to disavow white supremacists is a lie repeated from the 2016 campaign, when the media ignored Trump’s prior rejections of the Ku Klux Klan and claimed he had failed to denounce them. Trump even denounced racism earlier this year, in his address to Congress:
Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.
The purpose of the lie is to connect Trump to white supremacists by implying that he has something to disavow. Many of Trump’s critics compounded that lie Saturday by recycling false claims about members of his staff.
Trump’s critics are guilty of something worse than hypocrisy. They are trying to divide the country when the right thing to do is to stress common bonds, as Republicans did in June, though they were the targets.
Trump’s critics tried the same tactics in 2016, and all they achieved was more hatred. It is well past time for the slander to stop.