Charlottesville Reactions: What Took Trump and Toomey So Long?
It’s been two days since the shocking violence of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. first flashed across phone, television and computer screens around the world – two days since hundreds of people wearing swastikas and Confederate flags, some heavily armed, chanting Nazi slogans and giving the Nazi salute, flooded the streets near the University of Virginia. There they were met with counter-protesters like 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who died Saturday afternoon when a car plowed through the midst of the confrontation and sent her and others flying through the air.
Local officials, politicians, activist groups and neighbors alike are reeling in the aftermath of Charlottesville, where three people died and more than 30 were injured this past weekend. In the past, we might’ve looked to our president to unite the country and condemn the racist hate that spurred the violence. But this past weekend, President Donald Trump stoked division and anger when he failed to condemn the rally’s blatant neo-Nazis and white supremacists, instead blaming the “hatred, bigotry and violence” on “many sides.”
It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that Trump finally spoke out against the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups, which he called “criminals and thugs” in a statement.
Like Trump, it took Sen. Pat Toomey two days to name the hate groups. Shortly after Trump’s comment Monday, Toomey’s office gave Philadelphia magazine a statement:
“Senator Toomey is disgusted by white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis and believes the racism and hate spewed by these groups have no place in our society.”
Toomey’s constituents had expressed frustration this weekend when the senator failed to name neo-Nazis and white supremacists in a tweet condemning the violence in Charlottesville.
The racism, hate and violence seen in #Charlottesville are vile and unacceptable.
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) August 12, 2017
What are you going to do about those hate organizations in pa?
— sramones (@sramones) August 14, 2017
That's all my PA Senator has to say about his GOP president endorsed by David Duke and you can't even say White Racism, or KKK. No honor!
— Timothy Landenberger (@hike2_bike) August 12, 2017
As of Monday afternoon, only four of Pa.’s 14 Republican Congressmen had released actual statements on Charlottesville. Most condemned the violence on social media, but only five specifically mentioned the role of white supremacists. A third remained completely silent as of Monday afternoon.
Statewide, only one Republican Congressmen – Rep. Tim Murphy of the 18th Congressional District – had commented on Trump’s delay in condemning the hate groups.
That’s concerning – especially considering Pa. has one of the highest populations of white supremacist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The organization found more than 40 active hate groups operating in Pa. in 2016.
What happened in Charlottesville might have happened – or still could happen – in Philly, Harrisburg or Pittsburgh. It might have happened in any of the suburbs where these groups reportedly operate, including Broomall, Allentown, Newtown, York or Elizabethtown. What would our Republican officials have to say then? And how long would they wait before they say it?
Here’s how each of Pa.’s Republican Congressmen has responded to Charlottesville:
Rep. Patrick Meehan (7th District)
Rep. Ryan Costello (6th District)
— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) August 13, 2017
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (8th District)
Rep. Scott Perry (4th District)
We must be united against bigotry and hate.
— RepScottPerry (@RepScottPerry) August 13, 2017
Rep. Charlie Dent (15th District)
— Rep. Charlie Dent (@RepCharlieDent) August 12, 2017
Rep. Lou Barletta (11th District)
I strongly condemn the violence in #Charlottesville. Praying for the victims, their families & those working to keep their community safe.
— Rep. Lou Barletta (@RepLouBarletta) August 12, 2017
Rep. Tom Marino (10th District)
Rep. Bill Shuster (9th District)
The violence and hate on display in #Charlottesville is un-American and has no place in our democracy.
— Bill Shuster (@RepBillShuster) August 12, 2017
Rep. Keith Rothfus (12th District)
Rep. Lloyd Smucker (16th District)
Rep. Mike Kelly (3rd District)
Well said, Mr Speaker. Americans of goodwill from every background can & must unite to stamp out this senseless, despicable scourge forever. https://t.co/ln7OJGg7ET
— Rep. Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyPA) August 13, 2017
Rep. Glenn Thompson (5th District)
This story has been updated to include statements from Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.
Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.