Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) invoked the “Charlottesville hoax” — the claim that President Donald Trump called neo-Nazis “very fine people” after riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — on CNN Tuesday night.
O’Rourke, whose once-promising presidential campaign appears to be floundering, was appearing on a town hall on CNN.
As Breitbart News has noted, Trump used the phrase “very fine people” to refer to protesters against the removal of a historic Confederate statue — as well as to non-violent left-wing protesters who opposed them. The president also added: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.” Even CNN’s Jake Tapper, a frequent Trump critic, admitted recently Trump did not call neo-Nazis “very fine people.”
O’Rourke’s comment came in response to a question from a member of the audience:
The current administration has demonstrated, to me, an uncomfortable tolerance towards hate and bigotry in the country. There have been situations where the president could have categorically denounced hateful acts but did nothing. As president, how would you stand up to hate, and what are your thoughts on how we can better overcome hate in this nation?
O’Rourke answered, in part:
When a president calls Klansman and Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people,” when he conflates the words of [Minnesota Democratic] Representative Ilhan Omar, who happens to be a Muslim member of Congress, with the attacks on 9/11, stoking Islamaphobia and hatred — and yes, violence — you begin to be able to explain the rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years.
The host, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, did not attempt to correct O’Rourke’s false claims.
Reported hate crimes have actually been increasing since 2014 — the second year of President Barack Obama’s second term in office.
Omar has made repeated antisemitic comments, and recently appeared to minimize the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, telling a radical group that “some people did something” on 9/11. The president tweeted a video critical of Omar that showed video footage of the 9/11 attacks, adding the caption: “WE WILL NEVER FORGET!”.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.