Instead of dealing with the threat of violent racism, Republicans tried to whitewash Trump's bigotry.
Republicans used a congressional hearing on the rising white supremacist threat to America to defend Trump and falsely claim that he didn't praise Nazis who rioted in Charlottesville in 2017.
Instead of bringing serious witnesses before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Republicans invited Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America. Klein calls Arabs "filthy," and his organization has welcomed white supremacist guests like Trump acolyte Steve Bannon to its events.
At the hearing, Klein was part of an exchange with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) in which he denied Trump's infamous statement describing neo-Nazis as "very fine people."
"The media has really distorted the truth of that episode," Klein said, and then outright lied about Trump's words.
"In that statement [Trump] condemned neo-Nazis and white nationalists. He did not mean that they were fine people. Quite the contrary. He's disgusted by those people."
The claim is untrue.
Trump referred to the rioting pro-Confederate, neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as "very fine people." He also attacked those opposed to the neo-Nazis as "troublemakers" and "bad people."
He was so invested in his defense of the neo-Nazis that Trump also conflated George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with the Confederacy, arguing that taking down Confederate statues — put in place to honor men in open rebellion against the United States — would lead to removals of the founding father's statues as well.
The video and transcript of the events easily refute the false narrative Republicans and their congressional witness chose to promote.
REPORTER: You said there was hatred and violence on both sides?
TRUMP: I do think there is blame – yes, I think there is blame on both sides. You look at, you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it either. And, and, and, and if you reported it accurately, you would say.
REPORTER: The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Excuse me, they didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.
TRUMP: Oh no, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down – excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.
Trump's racism is pervasive and harmful. It infects his entire presidency, inspires violent threats and attacks, and in general makes America a worse place to live.
White supremacists are a threat to American lives, and his administration has done its best to ignore the problem. His administration recently shut down a unit within the Department of Homeland Security that studied domestic terrorism. And his fellow Republicans have done nothing to curb Trump's behavior or his actions.
Now, instead of addressing the threat of white nationalism in the United States, Republicans in Congress are attempting to whitewash Trump's racism and amplify blatant lies in the process.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.