As Donald Trump, his administration, and more than a few Republican allies in Congress turned mealy-mouthed over the weekend in response to Saturday’s deadly rally by white supremacists, Charlottesville, Virginia Mayor Michael Signer exhibited no such restraint, calling out the president for his role in the rise of violent white supremacy.
In the aftermath of Saturday’s deadly attack by a white supremacist, Signer placed blame for the incident “right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.” On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked him to clarify his remarks. “That’s a very strong charge to level,” said Tapper. “Why do you think the president himself bears responsibility?”
“Well look at the campaign he ran,” said Signer. “Look at the intentional courting, both on the one hand of all these white supremacist, white nationalist groups, anti-semitic groups; and then look on the other hand, the repeated failure to step up, condemn, denounce, silence, put to bed all those different efforts, just like we saw yesterday.”
It took Donald Trump and the White House hours to respond to the protests in Charlottesville, and when he did, his comments were completely devoid of any condemnation of white supremacy or the Nazi ideology on display. The omission was not lost on white supremacist groups who applauded the statement, nor on Mayor Signer.
“This is not hard. There’s two words that need to be said over and over again: “domestic terrorism” and “white supremacy,” he told CNN. “That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend, and we just aren’t seeing leadership from the White House.”
On the contrary, the Trump administration has been a haven for white nationalists. Several — including advisor Sebastian Gorka, who was linked to a Hungarian Nazi-affiliated group, and Steve Bannon, an avowed white nationalist — are employed by Trump. During the presidential campaign, Trump himself made overtures to white supremacist and anti-semitic groups, frequently sharing neo-Nazi imagery and memes on his vast social media channels.
Signer was quick to remind viewers of that fact on CBS’ Face the Nation. “[Trump] should look in the mirror,” he told host John Dickerson. “He made a choice in his presidential campaign, the folks around him, to go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices, and I think you are seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices.”