No, Trump did not say neo-Nazis are ‘fine people’


News Desk

A CNN contributor has rebuked his network for continuing to promote the false claim that President Trump described the neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 as “fine people.”

Steven Cortes, in a RealClearPolitics column, cited CNN’s correct contemporaneous reporting and the transcripts of the Trump Tower presser after the deadly protest.

“Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group,” Trump said. “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 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.”

Cortes noted that after another question, Trump became even more explicit.

“I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally,” the president said.

Yet, the “falsehood” persists, Cortes wrote, pointing to CNN contributor Keith Boykin stating last week: “When violent people were marching with tiki torches in Charlottesville, the president said they were ‘very fine people.’”

When Cortes objected, arguing Trump’s “fine people on both sides” observation clearly related to those on both sides of the Confederate monument debate, anchor Erin Burnett insisted Trump “didn’t say it was on the monument debate at all.”

“No, they didn’t even try to use that defense,” the CNN anchor said. “It’s a good one, but no one’s even tried to use it, so you just used it now.”

Cortes also cited MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace saying Trump had “given safe harbor to Nazis, to white supremacists.”

Her NBC colleague Chuck Todd claimed Trump “gave me the wrong kind of chills. Honestly, I’m a bit shaken from what I just heard.”

The New York Times ran a headline saying “Trump Gives White Supremacists Unequivocal Boost.”

Last weekend, Fox News host Chris Wallace pressed White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on why Trump has not given a speech “condemning … white supremacist bigotry.”

Mulvaney responded that the president has done so several times, including after the death of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer.

“Racism is evil,” Trump said, “and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Cortes said “the only explanation for such a repeated falsehood is abject laziness or willful deception.”


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