Mike Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville, said Sunday that he sees a “direct line” between President Donald Trump’s campaign playing “on our worst prejudices” and the white supremacist rally that turned fatal in his Virginia town on Saturday.
“I don’t want to make this too much about Donald Trump,” Signer told John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We have a lot of grieving, a lot of work to do as a city and as a country. But he should look in the mirror. I mean, he made a choice in his presidential campaign, the folks around with him, to, you know, go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.”
“And I think you are seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices,” Signer, a Democrat, continued. “He has the opportunity, as do we all, to have a fresh beginning.”
He sounded a similar note on to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday on “State of the Union,” saying, “Look at the campaign he ran. I mean, look at the intentional courting, both on the one hand of all these white supremacists, white nationalists, a group like that, anti-Semitic groups, and then look on the other hand the repeated failure to step up, condemn, denounce, silence, you know, put to bed all those different efforts, just like we saw yesterday.”
“I mean, this is not hard,” he added. “There’s — you know, there’s two words that need to be said over and over again, domestic terrorism and white supremacy. That is exactly what we saw on display this weekend. And we just aren’t seeing leadership from the White House.”
When he was running for president, Trump was slow to disavow the support of white supremacists like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
The rally on Saturday was a gathering of white supremacists (including Duke), neo-Nazis and other extremists, and a woman died and more than a dozen others were injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Some of the white supremacists leading the rally proclaimed their support for Trump, whose response to the violence has been widely panned. He made a statement condemning hate “on many sides” on Saturday but failed to call out white supremacists specifically to the alarm and bewilderment of Democrats, as well as many Republicans, who described the car attack as domestic terrorism.
Signer noted that omission. “What I did not hear in the president’s statement yesterday, as well-intentioned as it may have been, is I didn’t hear the words ‘white supremacy,’” he told Dickerson. “And I think that it’s important to call this for what it is and to say, OK, this show has run its course, this shark has been jumped, let’s move on.”
The White House issued a statement on Sunday following the uproar clarifying that Trump does indeed condemn “white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis and all extremist groups.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, told NBC News on Sunday that the man suspected of driving the car into the crowd at the rally “is a terrorist, and he used his car as a weapon.”