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Critics hit Trump for condemning Charlottesville violence without mentioning white supremacists

Civil rights groups, politicians and activists fired off criticism at President Trump on Saturday after he condemned violence in Charlottesville, Va., that left one person dead and dozens injured but avoided mentioning the white supremacists and neo-Nazis that marched on the city.

Speaking from his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, the president said he was speaking out “in the strongest possible terms” against the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides” in the Virginia university town.

In his short remarks, which prefaced an already scheduled event where he spoke about veterans and the economy, Trump seemed to deflect blame from groups who accuse his presidency of emboldening white supremacists. Bigotry has “been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama,” he said.

The president also ignored questions from reporters who asked his view of the white supremacists at the rally that said they were Trump supporters and said his campaign inspired their actions. They included well-known former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

After Trump spoke, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People shot back on Twitter.

In a statement, Democratic New York state Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman suggested the president was providing “cover” to white supremacists.

“Each of us — especially those of us in public office — has a moral obligation to condemn these actions in the strongest of terms. False equivalencies between ‘sides’ simply provides cover to the white supremacists seeking to take our country backwards and tear our communities apart,” Schneiderman said.

Virginia Atty. Gen. Mark Herring, a Democrat, echoed that position.

DeRay Mckesson, a prominent activist with ties to the Black Lives Matter movement, suggested the president was misreading the events in Charlottesville, which Trump said he wanted to “study” in order to “see what we're doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen.”

“Did Trump really say that he condemns the violence on ‘many sides’? The white folks with tiki torches brought the violence, own it,” Mckesson tweeted. White supremacists marched at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Friday holding torches as some shouted Nazi chants such as “blood and soil!”

The criticism of Trump also came from within his own party.

“Mr. President - we must call evil by its name,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). “These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, whom the president has insulted on Twitter after receiving negative coverage on his show, seemed to agree.

The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville kept the city on edge this summer after right-wing groups advertised their event nationally to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, formerly called Lee Park.

After Saturday’s clashes, some organizers, including prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer, vowed to return, presumably for another rally. It’s unclear when it would be.

jaweed.kaleem@latimes.com

Jaweed Kaleem is The Times' national race and justice correspondent. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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