Fact Check: Washington Post White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker Claims Trump ‘Showed Solidarity with Neo-Nazis’ in Charlottesville

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 21: Philip Rucker speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 at Los Angeles Convention Center on October 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon )
Rich Polk / Getty Images for Politicon

CLAIM: President Donald Trump “showed solidarity with the neo-Nazi protesters” in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

VERDICT: False. Trump said the neo-Nazis “should be condemned totally.” This is the “very fine people” hoax.

Philip Rucker, the Washington Post‘s White House bureau chief, claimed falsely on MSNBC on Monday that President Donald Trump is supporting protests against strict coronavirus stay-at-home orders in the same way that he supposedly “showed solidarity” with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

Rucker was appearing on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with anchor Brian Williams, who was famously demoted to the cable network after repeatedly fabricating the news.

Rucker’s “neo-Nazis” claim is also a fabrication, one widely debunked — and particularly egregious, coming from the Post reporter in charge of primary reporting on the Trump administration. He is in a position to know better than the “fake news.”

President Trump condemned neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — “totally,” and repeatedly:

  • Aug. 12, 2017: Trump condemned “violence “on many sides” in Charlottesville, after neo-Nazi and Antifa clashes
  • Aug. 14, 2017: Trump condemned “neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups” in White House statement
  • Aug. 15, 2017: Trump condemned neo-Nazis “totally,” praised non-violent protesters “on both sides” of statue debate

The “fine people hoax,” used repeatedly by CNN and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, claims falsely that Trump referred to the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as “very fine people.” It is simply untrue, as the transcript of Trump’s remarks, and as contemporaneous reporting by CNN, show. Trump was referring to non-violent protesters on both sides of the removal of a statue of a Confederate general from a public park as “very fine people” — in contrast to the neo-Nazis.

The president also specifically called the murder of left-wing protester Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi “terrorism” on Aug. 15.

The claim that Trump showed “solidarity” with neo-Nazis goes even further than the “fine people hoax” — which is so discredited that even CNN’s Jake Tapper, no fan of the president, finally admitted a year ago that it was wrong.

On Monday’s show, Williams asked Rucker to comment on Trump’s statements of support for the recent protests, which have targeted state and local governments that have taken particularly draconian steps to enforce “social distancing” — often going far beyond federal guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Talk about the dicey relationship — as the rest of the country views it — that he has with these protesters,” Williams prompted Rucker during a panel discussion. “They are protesting Trump administration guidelines [sic]. He has given them more than just his tacit blessing.”

Rucker said:

That’s right, Brian. And the other thing that the president sees when he looks at images of these protesters, like the ones playing right now, is he sees his own campaign banner. He knows that these are his supporters. They may not all be his supporters. We’re not sure who they all are going to vote for in November. But many of them are Trump supporters, are waving Trump flags. And Trump, the president, knows that he needs to show some solidarity with them. It’s one of the reasons why, for example, after the Charlottesville attack, he showed solidarity [sic] with the neo-Nazi protesters there.

The implication of Rucker’s false claim is that neo-Nazis are among Trump’s political supporters.

On Sunday, another MSNBC guest referred to the protesters as the “the Fox News, Nazi, confederate death cult” of the GOP.

While protesting excessive stay-at-home orders, Trump has insisted that Americans continue to practice “social distancing.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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