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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying “there are no good neo-nazis” on Wednesday, a day after President Donald Trump held a wild press conference during which he said some of the ralliers who stood alongside white nationalists at this weekend’s Charlottesville, Virginia, protests were “very fine people.”
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, released the statement to condemn “hate groups” and respond to reports of a similar planned rally to oppose the removal of Confederate monuments in Lexington, Kentucky.
“The white supremacist, KKK, and neo-nazi groups who brought hatred and violence to Charlottesville are now planning a rally in Lexington,” McConnell said in the statement. “Their messages of hate and bigotry are not welcome in Kentucky and should not be welcome anywhere in America.”
The statement continued: “We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”
On Saturday, as violent attacks in Charlottesville left one counterprotester dead after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people, injuring roughly 20 people, McConnell said, “the hate and bigotry witnessed in Charlottesville does not reflect American values.”
McConnell’s statement came after Trump made some of the most widely panned remarks of his presidency.
After initially blaming the violence on “both sides,” Trump condemned the racist movements on Monday. But during a Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower that was supposed to focus on infrastructure, Trump reverted to his earlier position, claiming that the “alt-left” was at least partially responsible for the violence as well and wondering whether the counterprotesters have any “semblance of guilt.”
The president also said that although “you had some very bad people in that group,” you “also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
“You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” he said of “some” of those who were involved in the white nationalists’ protest.
“And you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists – because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK?” he added. “And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”
Trump said the white nationalists’ protest included some people who were “protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.”
McConnell is reportedly upset privately with Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville episode, CNN reported on Wednesday. A source close to the Senate majority leader said McConnell “is deeply concerned that Trump is reopening long-festering racial tensions,” CNN reported. McConnell’s wife, transportation secretary Elaine Chao, was standing next to Trump during his Tuesday press conference.
The relationship between McConnell and Trump appears to have publicly soured after McConnell said last week that Trump has “excessive expectations” as to what the GOP Congress can accomplish.
That led to Trump blasting McConnell on Twitter.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Trump tweeted last Wednesday. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”
Trump asked McConnell on Thursday to “get back to work” and pass legislation related to healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure, adding, “You can do it!”
“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done,” Trump tweeted. “Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!”