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After criticism for his silence, Trump tweets against 'hate,' but doesn't mention white supremacists

White nationalists and neo-Nazis clash with counter-protesters during a second day of violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
White nationalists and neo-Nazis clash with counter-protesters during a second day of violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

President Trump tweeted two statements Saturday responding to the riotous actions of white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va.

The first was a generic statement condemning hate and violence, in which he continued for a second day not to comment specifically on the nature of the demonstrations.

That post on Twitter about 1:30 p.m. ET came amid building criticism, including from Republicans, that he had not spoken out against the clashes.

Many critics on social media noted that Trump also has not condemned the bombing of a Minnesota mosque a week ago, though he has been quick to tweet against violence by Muslims in foreign nations.

The president's failure to mention Charlottesville specifically in his tweet invited further criticism, since other Republicans — including his wife, Melania, nearly an hour before him — had done so. She used the hashtag #Charlottesville that was being used on Twitter by those witnessing and following the violence near the University of Virginia.

A bit more than an hour later, Trump tweeted a second time, specifically mentioning Charlottesville, but not condemning the violence or naming the groups involved in it.

The president's vagueness stood in contrast to his frequent contention, echoing many on the right, that "radical Islamic terrorism" cannot be defeated if political leaders are not willing to specifically call it that. 

Among the prominent Republicans who took to Twitter to specifically condemn the neo-Nazis' violence in Virginia, were House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie, who is now running for governor in Virginia, and Ronna Romney McDaniel, the current chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

Democrats also were quick with their condemnations, and criticism of the president, including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York. 

"The march and rally in Charlottesville goes against everything the American flag stands for," Schumer said in a statement. "President Trump must condemn this in the strongest terms immediately."

Trump's generic tweet came after the city of Charlottesville and the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, had declared a state of emergency.

The violence began Friday evening, as scores of mostly men wearing white hoods or black T-shirts, many with racist messages, and carrying Confederate and white supremacist flags, assembled to protest the planned removal of a statue of a Confederate general.

At the site was former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, whom Trump declined to criticize during his 2016 campaign for president. On Saturday, Duke hailed Trump in calling the protests "a turning point."

"We are determined to take our country back," Duke said. "We're going to fulfill the promise of Donald Trump. That's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump."

After Trump made his statement on Twitter, Duke attacked it, saying that Trump should remember that "white Americans" were responsible for his victory. 

The protests come just days after one of Trump's White House advisors, Sebastian Gorka, on Wednesday complained about criticisms of white supremacists, especially in the media.

"'It's the white supremacists. That’s the problem.' No, it isn’t," Gorka said on a radio program for the conservative media outlet Breitbart.com, which formerly was run by another White House advisor, Stephen K. Bannon. 

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