The big news of the day out of the White House was the ouster of alt-right poster boy Steve Bannon, who wasted no time scurrying back to his Breitbart cave to sharpen his knives for the coming race war he’s apparently inspired President Donald Trump to launch this weekend.
This would all be sort of sickeningly amusing – a deposed top advisor with the highest security clearance now back at the helm of his hate speech-spewing digital rag – if it wasn’t all so damned scary.
And Bannon’s departure aside, the fact is that Trump on Tuesday very clearly revealed to his 60 million-plus voters that he is in fact a racist, as if his years of leading the birther movement against Barack Obama wasn’t evidence enough prior to the election – plus his numerous incendiary campaign statements slamming immigrants, women, minorities and more.
I was wondering where our elected representatives stood on Trump’s response to the Charlottesville riots by neo-Nazis, KKK members and white nationalists – one of whom allegedly murdered counter-protestor Heather Heyer. Trump on Tuesday said there were “some very fine people” among the mob of torch-carrying fascists who descended on the town.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, had this to tweet about Bannon: “Removing Bannon’s divisive, nationalist influence from WH was long overdue. Regardless, the tone for this admin ultimately lies with @POTUS.”
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, has not yet commented on Bannon, but was one of Trump’s most forceful GOP critics in the wake of Charlottesville, tweeting: “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”
Trump was slow to condemn white nationalists in Charlottesville, later sympathizing with them, and still has not called Heyer’s death an act of terrorism.
State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat from Steamboat Springs who represents Routt and Eagle counties, tweeted: “Remember when the KKK terrorized the US & many looked the other way? I do. NEVER AGAIN. The world is watching. We must act. #Charlottesville”
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who represents the eastern part of Eagle County in Congress, questioned Trump’s defense of Civil War memorials, tweeting: “Our President actually said this today, what’s next? Calling the Civil War the War of Northern Aggression?”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Cortez Republican who represents the western part of Eagle County in Congress, was also quick to condemn white supremacy but was careful not to criticize the president, tweeting: ““Neo-Nazis are abhorrent & only try to drive America apart. We must stand up to racism, antisemitism & hateful rhetoric wherever we see it.”
I asked a Tipton spokeswoman for the congressman’s thoughts on the president’s handling of the situation, including his comments Tuesday that demonstrated sympathy for neo-Nazi, white supremacist and KKK protesters, calling some “very fine people.” I also wondered if there should be a federal law banning the use of Nazi and other white supremacist logos, the way there is in Germany.
But she referred to his original tweet, saying, “Those are his feelings on the situation, period.”
Colorado Republicans Gardner, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman all pushed push back directly against Trump’s comments on Charlottesville.
Although he called Trump’s Access Hollywood sexual assault comments “appalling,” Tipton steadfastly supported Trump and refused to outright condemn his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric during the campaign, instead trying to link his Democratic opponent — former state Sen. Gail Schwartz — to Hillary Clinton.
Tipton’s Republican primary opponent, Alex Beinstein, quit the Republican Party last year over Trump’s perceived anti-Semitism in attacking Clinton.
Reached by phone, Mitsch Bush declined to directly attack Tipton for his refusal to more strongly and directly condemn Trump, instead noting his lockstep voting record and overall support for the controversial president, including his vote for the American Health Care Act.
“Tipton has voted with Trump on bills 97 percent of the time, and it’s very hard to distinguish the two, frankly,” Mitsch Bush said, adding that leadership does mean taking a strong stand in the face of divisive and hateful rhetoric.
“A leader, whether it’s the president or a representative, brings people together, embodies our deepest values and doesn’t stand for hate and bigotry,” Mitsch Bush said. “And when she or he sees that, tries to calm people, provide leadership and bring people together to get past these divisions. A real leader does take a moral stand.”
I first called out Trump’s hate speech in March of 2016, and more recently noted that business leaders now distancing themselves from Trump should have done so more forcefully before and during the election. That prompted Campbell’s Soup to send me this statement from their CEO, who recently quit a Trump advisory committee to protest his Charlottesville comments:
So rather than forcefully condemning all hate groups without attacking counter-protesters, Trump apparently is willing to dissolve business groups set up to deliver on his promise to “make American great again.” And the backlash isn’t limited to the corporate world.
Celebrities, athletes and cultural icons are calling out Trump in droves, forcing the president to pull out of the traditional Kennedy Center Honors gala “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat who’s the senior member of Colorado’s congressional delegation, on Wednesday called for a resolution officially censuring Trump for his support for white supremacists.
“I’m co-sponsoring a resolution to censure @POTUS for defending white supremacists in #Charlottesville,” DeGette said in a tweet. “Our leaders must not condone hate.”
Meanwhile, white supremacist leaders such as Richard Spencer and former KKK leader David Duke lauded Trump’s Tuesday press conference, praising his “honesty and courage.”