U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he condemns “all types of racism and acts of violence,” appealing for unity ahead of the anniversary of a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump drew strong criticism in the days after the Charlottesville rally last year for equating white supremacists with counter-protesters and saying “both sides” were to blame.
On Saturday, Trump wrote on Twitter that the “riots” in Charlottesville “resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
The organizer of last year’s event, white nationalist Jason Kessler, was denied a permit in Charlottesville this year but has secured permission to hold a demonstration on Sunday in Washington, across the street from the White House.
The violence culminated with a man driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 people.
In the immediate aftermath, Trump drew broad criticism when he initially appeared to establish a moral equivalence between the two groups of protesters and refused to criticise the far rightwingers.
He did eventually yield to immense political pressure and condemn white nationalism.
But just a day later, Trump said there was “blame on both sides” for the violence in Virginia, condemning the anti-fascists who came “with clubs in their hands.”
“I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump said. “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
Trump is constantly fending off charges that he is misogynist and racist. He denies the allegations.
Trump has retweeted white nationalist material; said Mexicans crossing the US border are rapists and drug dealers; once referred to a Hispanic Miss Universe as “Miss Housekeeping,” and employed Steve Bannon, central figure of the new “alt-right” in America, as his campaign chief and top strategist for a time.
In one of the most recent race-related flare-ups, a black former White House employee, Omarosa Manigault Newman, has written in an upcoming memoir that Trump was caught on mic uttering the N-word “multiple times” during the making of his hit reality TV show The Apprentice prior to his presidential run, and that there are tapes to prove it.
Manigault Newman is a former Apprentice star. She served as director of communications for the White House office of public liaison until she was fired in December.
While she does not write that she herself heard Trump use the taboo language, she cites three unnamed sources, and adds that she experienced “truly appalling things” with Trump, according to The Guardian, which obtained a copy of the book ahead of its publication next week.
The White House dismissed the book as riddled with lies and false accusations and the product of a “disgruntled former White House employee.”