With each passing day, it is becoming harder to find an answer to the question “What will it take for Donald Trump to condemn extremist activity?”
The genuine actual President of the United States has had no trouble condemning Sadiq Khan, CNN and Amazon, but when it comes to white supremacists or other extremist individuals of a similar ideology, he’s kept notably schtum.
This all came to a head this week following marches from white supremacists in Charlottesville, when – on being called to condemn the actions of the far right, elsewhere termed the alt-right – he responded: "What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?" then doubled down “You had a lot of people in that [the alt-right] group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest… the other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: there are two sides to a story.”
Trump’s history of failing – or otherwise actively passing up the opportunity – to speak out against such individuals or actions stretches back before his presidency. Here is a comprehensive rundown of all the times Trump has been pointedly silent.
Charlottesville, August 2017
Event Donald Trump was called upon to condemn: The ‘Unite the Right’ march in Charlottesville, in which a counter-protester was killed while demonstrating against white supremacist marchers.
Donald Trump’s response: “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.” (Press briefing, August 2017)
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, August 2017
Person Donald Trump was called upon to condemn: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who once said “They call you the KKK, they do me, I think it’s an honour, right? It means we’re doing something”
Donald Trump’s response: “I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio…He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him.” (Fox News interview, 2017)
Portland, May 2017
Event Donald Trump was called upon to condemn: A racially motivated attack in Portland, in which two people were killed defending a Muslim woman.
Donald Trump’s response: Silence for three days. Then a tweet: “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.” (From his @realDonaldTrump account)
Refusal to criticise KKK leader David Duke, February 2016
Event Donald Trump was called upon to condemn: In a CNN interview during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump refused – three times – to condemn the leader of the Ku Klux Klan. This, despite having 16 years before labelled him a bigot and a racist.
Donald Trump’s response: “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. I don’t know anything about what you’re talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists, so I don’t know, did he endorse me, or what’s going on
“I have to look at the group. I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. But you may have groups in there who are totally fine and it would be very unfair, so give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”
Anti-semitic Hillary Clinton tweet fallout, July 2016
Event Donald Trump was called upon to condemn: Many accused Donald Trump of an anti-semitic act after he tweeted (and then deleted) a picture depicting Hillary Clinton in front of a background of money and a Star of David. The tweet was shortly replaced with a similar one, minus the Star of David.
Donald Trump’s response: “These false attacks by Hillary Clinton trying to link the Star of David with a basic star, often used by sheriffs who deal with criminals and criminal behavior, showing an inscription that says 'Crooked Hillary is the most corrupt candidate ever' with anti-Semitism is ridiculous”
(Quoted by NBC and others, July 2016)
White nationalists urge people to vote for Trump, January 2016
Event Donald Trump was called upon to condemn: During the election campaign, Trump was urged to condemn white nationalist Jared Taylor who had been campaigning for Trump to win the election. He'd said “I urge you to vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that we should accept immigrants who are good for America. We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.”
Donald Trump’s response: “I would disavow that, but I will tell you, people are extremely angry.””
(CNN interview, January 2016)
Response to racially motivated attack on Hispanic man, August 2015
Event Donald Trump was called upon to condemn: At 12.30am in August 2015, brothers Scott and Steve Leader set upon a homeless man in Boston, Massachusetts beating him with a metal pipe and urinating on him. Reports said the men were heard saying ‘Donald Trump was right’ and ‘all these illegals need to be deported’ as the attack took place.
Donald Trump’s response: “It would be a shame, but I haven’t heard about that. I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country, and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”
(Reported by the Washington Post, August 2015)
At best, these occasions have seen Trump avoid difficult questions. At worst, his words have been lapped up by white supremacists.
He has had no trouble taking aim at Mexican immigrants or at Islamic extremists, so why has he found it so hard to do the same with those espousing white supremacy?
Many will argue they know exactly why.