President Donald Trump denounced hate groups at the White House on Monday, responding to critics of his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virgina surrounding an alt-right rally.
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said.
The president made his remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House after meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the FBI Director Chris Wray.
“Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” Trump said.
He specifically named Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed during the protests after a reported Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters.
“Her death fills us with grief and we send her family our thoughts, our prayers, and our love,” Trump said.
Trump confirmed that the FBI and the Department of Justice were investigating the car attack, vowing to hold accountable any of the protesters who committed a crime during the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” he said. “It has no place in America.”
Trump also recognized the two police officers — Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, and 40-year-old Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates — who died in a helicopter crash while supporting the law enforcement response to the violence.
“These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation,” he said. “In times such as these, America has always shown its true character — responding to hate with love, division with unity and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice,” he said.
Trump remarks were a direct answer to his critics who raged at the president for failing to specifically name hate groups in his statement on Saturday.
Some critics, however, made it clear that it did not matter what Trump said on Monday, citing his first response to the crisis.
“No matter what [the president] says now-first instincts always revealing; his was to look into the camera and say “many sides” — that can’t be erased,” former Secretary of State John Kerry wrote on Twitter.