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Representatives React To Latest Trump Comments

U.S. Capitol Building
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WAMC News has asked the members of Congress within its listening area if they have any response to President Donald Trump’s comments Tuesday in which the Republican doubled down on his original statement Saturday after violence erupted in Charlottesville, VA. The president on Tuesday claimed there were “bad people” in both protest camps, which included neo-Nazis, and used the term “alt-left” in comments that were criticized across the political spectrum. Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush released a statement Wednesday disavowing hate groups.  WAMC is gathering statements from members of Congress here and will publish responses as they are received.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, D-CT, 5th District

The horrible events in Charlottesville this past weekend must be a call to leadership – as citizens and as human beings. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and all those who espouse hatred and bigotry have no place in our country. We must reject their call to violence and hatred. We must stand united against the fear and anger that they stoke.  America did not send millions of our young men and women to Europe to fight Hitler and the evil of Nazism 75 years ago only to let those same hateful ideas be invoked to terrorize our fellow citizens today. We are better people than that. But let us not focus only on what we are against. We need to stand up to defend and support what we are for. We are for a strong and compassionate country that supports and respects all people. We are for freedom of religion and freedom of speech. We are for a free press as a bulwark against tyranny. We are for a country where we are judged not by the color of our skin by the content of our character. Great leaders – whether they are president, or a local elected official or a child on the playground – lead by example – by the words they use and the actions they take. Great leaders do not prey on our fears or thrive on our anger. Great leaders call on us to be our best selves. Each and every one of us today has that opportunity – and that need – to step up and lead. 

Congressman Paul Tonko, D-NY, 20th District

America's response to bigotry, hate & racial violence must never be moral relativism. We have been to these crossroads before. Those moments when we failed to stand for our fellow human beings continue to haunt our nation's conscience to this day. Yes, America's founders enslaved people. That hard truth calls on us to fight for social justice with heart and conviction, not hide behind fake moral equivalency. No, Mr. President, statues celebrating America's founders are not the same as statues carrying the banner of the Confederacy and symbolizing hate. We needed this to be a moment of healing and unity, of responding together against hate and of working together to mend the deep racial and cultural wounds that remain open and raw from centuries of denial and inhumanity. We have a duty to confront our painful legacy of racism, oppression and violence, especially where it is so openly on display. Instead, our President has made #Charlottesville an excuse to silence peaceful anti-hate activism, even after some of those activists were brutally attacked and Heather Heyer was killed. That violence is being distorted in ways that lend legitimacy to a racist mob chanting Nazi and white nationalist slogans and displaying swastika and Confederate flags. This is inexcusable. I want to thank everyone who is already speaking up, joining local rallies in the name of peace and making clear to your neighbors, friends and loved ones which side of history you are on. Let your love for this country ring out with every word. We are a greater nation than this. E pluribus unum, out of many we are one.

A spokesperson for Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-NY, 21st district

Congresswoman Stefanik has been clear in her condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville. As news of the events broke, the Congresswoman took to social media to condemn hatred and bigotry. Congresswoman Stefanik believes ideologies such as white supremacy are morally repugnant and have no place in our society.

Congressman Jim McGovern, D-MA, 2nd district, on Twitter

This is sick. @realDonaldTrump is defending neo-Nazis and white supremacists -- again. Let that sink in.

Congressman Peter Welch, D-VT, at-large

“What happened is Charlottesville is tragic in lives lost and people injured, and inexcusable in the conduct of those who trafficked in the hate and intolerance that inspired it. There is no justification – none – for the conduct of the people involved. President Trump should condemn this conduct, not pretend there is an equivalency of actions between people who peaceably demonstrate and those who violently attack. Those who do threaten innocent Americans and threaten the foundation of our democracy itself.”

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, D-NY, 22nd district

“As someone who worked closely alongside the Jewish Community Center in Utica to resettle Bosnian refugees who were victims of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, it is unconscionable to me that anyone in modern day America could display such hatred, violence and racism toward their fellowman. I immediately condemned in the strongest terms possible this tragic display of white supremacy and called on Americans to join together to condemn these acts of intolerance and bigotry, which have no place in our society or our political discourse. Going forward, I urge the President to continue to denounce white supremacy, racism and intolerance and work to promote an atmosphere of unity in our nation during this troubling time.”

Congressman Richard Neal, D-MA, 1st district

“The images from Charlottesville last weekend were deeply disturbing and contrary to our core principles. There is simply no place for hatred, bigotry or intolerance in our society. We cannot equivocate when it comes to groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. And the deadly violence we witnessed must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.  At this critical juncture, I would urge President Trump to appeal to the “better angels of our nature,” rather than engage in divisive rhetoric. The vast majority of the American people believe we must take a stand against the voices of extremism.”

Congresswoman Nita Lowey, D-NY, 17th district

"The President’s heinous comments since the violence in Charlottesville have stained the office of the presidency. Today, I became an original cosponsor of legislation to censure the President. It’s unacceptable to allow false equivalencies between the white supremacist and neo-Nazi protesters and the counterprotesters who stood up for equal rights, justice, and freedom. It’s unacceptable that the President employs officials associated with hate groups. And, frankly, it's unacceptable that the President will not resign his office in the face of plain evidence that he will never be able to unite this great nation under his failed moral leadership."

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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