National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday that the car attack that left one dead at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday may meet “the definition of terrorism.”
“I certainly think any time that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism. It meets the definition of terrorism,” McMaster said on ABC’s “This Week,” asked by George Stephanopoulos if the attack qualifies as domestic terrorism.
“But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans — a criminal act that may have been motivated, and we’ll see what’s turned up in this investigation, by this hatred and bigotry which I mentioned we have to extinguish in our nation,” McMaster continued.
The rally, attended by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, some of whom touted their support of President Donald Trump, turned violent on Saturday and left a woman dead and many others injured when a car drove into a crowd of counter-protesters. Two law enforcement officials also died in a helicopter crash.
Trump’s reaction to the violence has been widely panned as insufficient. He made a statement condemning violence “on many sides” and called on Americans to come together, but he did not specifically condemn white supremacists. Many Democrats and some Republicans made statements calling on the president to call out the white supremacists and questioned why he would hesitate to do so.
The Justice Department has since opened a civil rights investigation into the attack.
McMaster condemned the violence and the rally in much harsher terms than the president on Sunday, but declined to criticize Trump.
“The president’s been very clear. We cannot tolerate this kind of bigotry, this kind of hatred,” McMaster said. “And what he did is he called on all Americans to take a firm stand against it. This is a great opportunity for us to ask ourselves: What are we teaching our children? Tolerance has to overcome this kind of hatred, this kind of hatred that is grounded, really, in ignorance, ignorance of our values and what makes us unique as Americans.”
Asked if Trump seemed to be suggesting a moral equivalence between the white supremacists and the people protesting them Saturday, McMaster denied it.
“Maybe to you, George, but not to me,” McMaster said. “I think the president was very clear. And so was the attorney general, in his statement.”