Attorney General Jeff Sessions told “CBS This Morning” on Monday that people are making “too much out of” President Trump not explicitly condemning white supremacists in his initial statement about weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia
Trump condemned the events in Charlottesville but failed to specifically point out white supremacists. Many people, both in and out of the media, have been fixated on the comments — specifically the president’s choice to condemn “many sides.”
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides,” Trump said over the weekend. “On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”
Sessions said Trump “absolutely” needs to specifically condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but thinks the media is overthinking his initial comments.
“Look, he gave a statement at a press conference that was already scheduled for veteran’s issues. It was a long statement about violence, bigotry and hatred. He condemned it. He called for unity in our country. He called on us to get along with each other,” Sessions said. “He was strong about that. It was just shortly after the events happened.”
Co-host Charlie Rose grilled Sessions, saying a White House spokesman was tougher on white supremacists than the president.
“It’s the president’s spokesman. I’m sure he’ll speak about it again… I just think we’re making too much out of this,” Sessions responded.
The Department of Justice has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the weekend’s violence, which left three people dead and dozens injured.
“Justice will be done. We are coming after these people. It will not be tolerated, it cannot be tolerated in America,” Sessions said.
Sessions then predicted that Trump will condemn white supremacists in the “days to come” but continued to note that his spokesperson has already done so.
Groups of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville over the weekend to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, and were met by counter-protesters, leading to violence that began Friday night. Unrest intensified on Saturday, as a vehicle plowed into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal from Virginia, and injuring 19 others. More than 30 were hurt in total as a result of events at the rally.