President Trump finally has a staunch defender on Capitol Hill after he created a swirl of controversy this week with remarks about Saturday’s racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told KUTV-TV in Salt Lake City that Trump is no racist, and expressed impatience with news media for ‘trying to pull him down’ by framing him as a bigot.
‘To ascribe racism to the president, which some people are trying to do, is not only hitting below the belt, it’s vicious stuff,’ Hatch said.
‘I know the man. … He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. And he’s done a lot to try and help quell racism in this country.’
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch rode to Donald Trump’s rescue, telling a salt Lake City TV station that the president ‘doesn’t have a racist bone in his body’
Trump told reporters on Tuesday that while he condemns neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, counter-protesters share the blame for a violent melee over the weekend that resulted in a woman’s death
Hatch said he had spoken with the president on the phone after Tuesday’s impromptu remarks to a hungry press corps in New York – the event where he blamed ‘both sides’ of the Charlottesville clash for the violence that followed a white supremacist rally.
‘He was trying to say there were people all around who were not acting very responsibly,’ Hatch proposed. ‘But he did make it very clear that there was no excuse for this racism.’
‘And even though he did say some other things that have been, I think, probably misconstrued, he made that very clear.’
Trump did fumble the ball, however, with Hatch admitting that the president didn’t handle the aftermath of the deadly clash perfectly.
‘White supremacy is evil, as is any form of racism. I’m one of the first to come out of the blocks adn say that, because that undermines the very fabric of our country. I think that’s, in essence, what the president was trying to say,’ Hatch said.
‘Could he have said it a little bit better? Uh-huh. Yeah. He could have.’
The president, said Hatch, has been the victim of intentional distortions of his words by enemies in the media
Still, Hatch returned to bashing the media, saying there are ‘people who try to put their own interpretation [on] to embarrass the president or to pull him down.’
‘I don’t think anything he said would have been acceptable by the main[stream] media in this country,’ he said, adding later that ‘there are those who would like to undermine him any way they possibly could.’
‘And if they can distort what he says and distort what he means, and even though they know it’s otherwise, they’re going to do it.
‘He has no friends in the national media, I don’t think, at all.’
Friday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalists marched in objection to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a public park
The next day, however, masked left-wing radicals helped escalate violence – which reached its peak when a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters
Hatch said he would have advised Trump ‘to just come out and condemn the actions’ of the racist mob, ‘and make it very clear that he’s – and he did make it clear that he doesn’t countenance what went on there, that these people were just awful. And then leave it at that.’
Before Hatch spoke out, Trump had been on the receiving end of jabs – some pointed, some softer – from fellow Republicans.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a host of other lawmakers refused to defend him, with major cable news outlets noting that no elected officials would come on the air to take his side.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s elbow was the sharpest among the GOP. His statement on Wednesday alleged that Trump’s words were ‘dividing Americans, not healing them.’
‘President Trump took a step backward,’ Graham said, ‘by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer,’ referring to the murdered victim.
‘I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.’
Trump fired back Thursday morning on Twitter.
‘Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer,’ he wrote.
‘Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember.’