‘I haven’t heard you say “I condemn white supremacists”‘: Jake Tapper confronts White House adviser over Trump’s refusal to explicitly call out neo-Nazis

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CNN’s Jake Tapper interviews White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.
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CNN

CNN’s Jake Tapper grilled a top White House adviser over President Donald Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the alt-right who converged Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday.

In a statement after the deadly rally, the president responded to the violence that erupted in Virginia as a group of white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters, decrying the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

In an interview on Sunday, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert dismissed criticism that the president refused to adequately condemn white supremacists.

Bossert praised the president’s statement, saying that Trump appropriately called-out an event that “turned into an unacceptable level of violence at all levels.”

“This isn’t about President Trump – this is about a level of violence and hatred that could not be tolerated in this country,” Bossert said. “I was with the president yesterday, and I’m proud of the fact that he stood up and calmly looked into the camera and condemned this violence and bigotry in all its forms. This racial intolerance and racial bigotry cannot be condoned.”

Tapper then read Bossert a quote from a white nationalist website that said Trump’s statement was “really, really good” for calling out violence “on many sides.”

“Mr. Bossert, that’s a neo-Nazi website celebrating how equivocal and vague the president of the United States was,” Tapper said. “Are you at least willing to concede that the president was not clear enough in condemning white supremacy?”

“The words of the ignorant bear little with me and should bear less with you in the media,” Bossert replied, saying the president “didn’t dignify the names of these groups of people, but rather addressed the fundamental issue.”

Bossert repeatedly attempted to blame Tapper and the media for scrutinizing Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacy, saying “what you say and do think does pervade what you say on air and the things you cover.”

“Jake, what you need to focus on is the rest of his statement,” he added. “I guess you’re going to continue to press on the words he didn’t say, but I’d like you to focus on the statement that he did say.”

The two continue to spar for several minutes – Tapper asked Bossert how many white supremacists were killed by counter-protesters on Saturday, which prompted the homeland security adviser to reply that he wouldn’t let Tapper make him a “apologist for somebody who is now a charged murderer.”

The CNN anchor also pointed out that Trump officials like adviser Sebastian Gorka have said that white supremacists are not “the problem,” and that many Republican officials criticized Trump for not taking a strong enough stance against white supremacists.

“When you just condemn groups, as opposed to specifically white supremacists, Nazis, Klan members – it creates this vagueness,” Tapper said. “And you, on this show today, have said that you condemn groups, and condemn actions and condemn bigotry. But I haven’t heard you say ‘I condemn white supremacists, I condemn nazis, I condemn the alt-right.’ And I think a lot of people are upset, a lot of Republican officials, that they didn’t hear that from President Trump. But I don’t want to belabor the point.”

“I think you’ve belabored it so let me say I condemn white supremacists, and nazis, and groups that favor this type of exclusion,” Bossert said. “I can’t be clearer.”

Despite his unequivocal language on a variety of issues, Trump has repeatedly bungled attempts to condemn white supremacy.

During the 2016 campaign, the then-Republican candidate for months ignored opportunities during interviews to distance hiimself from former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke, who praised Trump.

“I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” Trump said in an interview on CNN. “Did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about white supremacists.”

Watch the clips via CNN: