Donald Trump is no stranger to around-the-clock controversy. But his increasingly inappropriate responses to the murder of a counter protester at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on Saturday have emerged as his biggest scandal since the release of the Access Hollywood tapes, wherein he bragged about grabbing women "by the pussy." The now-president's statements on Charlottesville over the past five days effectively serve as a how-to guide for the absolute worst way to handle a national tragedy. Let's review, shall we?
Saturday August 12
At a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, which began as a protest to preserve a statue of Robert E. Lee, a car plowed into peaceful counter-protesters, injuring at least 19 people and killing one woman. James Alex Fields, Jr, an alleged white supremacist and neo-Nazi, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the incident.
From his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Saturday, Trump said:
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides—on many sides. So we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville and we want to study it and we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country, where things like this can happen."
There was immediate outrage from both Republicans and Democrats over Trump's comments, mostly due to his assertion that there was "violence on many sides," and the fact that he didn't explicitly denounce white supremacy. "The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil," Ted Cruz said in a statement. "Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists," wrote Marco Rubio in a tweet.
Sunday August 13
In light of the controversy brewing, the White House released the following statement:
Monday August 14
With Trump's personal silence about the Nazis, KKK, and white supremacists at Charlottesville becoming more and more unnerving, Kenneth C. Frazier, the CEO of Merck Pharmaceuticals, resigned from the president's manufacturing council. "As the CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism," Frazier, who is African-American, wrote in a statement.
Naturally, the president took to Twitter to comment on this crushing rejection:
Soon after, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned from the manufacturing council as well.
Later, at the White House, Trump made an unscheduled announcement in an apparent attempt to appease the haters and the losers (to use his terminology). Reading off a teleprompter, the president said:
"Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."
Unfortunately for the president, his brief, stilted statement was too little too late, especially considering his long history of saying other racist shit.
Tuesday August 15
The president began Tuesday like an ordinary day, retweeting a cartoon of a train with his name on it, plowing down a CNN reporter with the words, "Fake news can't stop the Trump train." Minutes later, he retweeted someone insinuating he was a "fascist," then quickly deleted both the tweets, and White House officials told the press it was an accident.
Trump took his erratic behavior to a whole new level later that day, when he held a press conference in his beloved Tower that was intended to focus on infrastructure. During a Q&A session, Trump walked back his PR-friendly statement a day earlier and made sure to blame the counter protesters, as well as right-wing extremists, for Saturday's violence.
"What I'm saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch," the president said at his press conference about infrastructure. "But there is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You have just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that's the way it is."
Trump said that "a lot of" Unite the Right participants "were there to innocently protest." He also noted, "You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly."
"Nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in—without a permit—and they were very, very violent," the president said of the anti-racist protesters, whom he dubbed the "the alt-left."
"You see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats," he opined. "You had a lot of bad people in the other group too."
Trump criticized the initial campaign to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee. "George Washington was a slave owner... So will George Washington now lose his status? ... Are we going to take down the statue? Cause he was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? So you know what? It's fine. You are changing history, you're changing culture."
In response to a reporter asking him if he was going to Charlottesville, Trump said, "Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville? ...I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States." (Town and Country fact-checked this claim, and as it turns out, it is not one of the largest wineries in the United States and Trump doesn't even own it.)
Needless to say, defending racist activists after one of the their own was charged with murdering a peaceful counter protester was poorly received.
Wednesday August 16
To get things going, Trump's lawyer forwarded an insane email defending the president's statements—written by a known conspiracy-theorist—to a group of friends, government officials and right-wing journalists.
In light of Trump's tirade on Tuesday, most of the business leaders remaining on the president's Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and Strategic and Policy Forum decided on a conference call to disband the initiative, according to a New York Times report. But Trump, after getting wind of what was about to happen, broke up with them first:
Thursday August 17
Are you exhausted? I'm exhausted. I'll let the tweets speak for themselves:
What fresh horror will Friday bring?
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