Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a passionate and pointed statement Tuesday evening following President Donald Trump's comment that "there is blame on both sides" for the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"For the second time in three days, this president equated neo-Nazis, white supremacists and bigots with those who courageously stood up to confront their hate and give voice to our shared values," Emanuel said in a statement. "I can’t help but take this personally, and not just because I’ve had the privilege of serving two presidents and am a believer in the power and awesome responsibility of the office. I found my political awakening in 1978, protesting neo-Nazis who assembled in Marquette Park after their first attempt to intimidate the Jewish community in Skokie was rebuffed. We were outnumbered and didn’t have a permit that day, either, but at least we knew we were on the right side of justice – and history. Nor were we concerned that in the aftermath, political leaders might equate our stance against hate with those who peddled it."
Combative and insistent, Trump declared anew Tuesday "there is blame on both sides" for the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, appearing to once again equate the actions of white supremacist groups and those protesting them. He showed sympathy for the fringe groups' efforts to preserve Confederate monuments.
Trump acknowledged there were "some very bad people" looking for trouble in the group protesting plans to remove the statue. "But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides," he said.
A senior White House official told NBC News that Trump's team went into the public event with the understanding that the president would take no questions. But once in front of reporters, the president "went rogue." The official said members of the team were stunned by the president's actions.
The president's comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House a day earlier when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as "criminals and thugs."
"Simply put, today’s performance was unworthy of the office and its moral authority," Emanuel's statement continued. "As Maya Angelou cautioned: ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them.'"
Violence broke out Saturday in Charlottesville, a picturesque college town, after a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists assembled to protest the city's decision to remove a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.