Whenever Democrats want to blame President Trump for an act of white supremacist violence such as the horrific attack in New Zealand or the imagined attack on Jussie Smollett in Chicago, they and their allies in the national news media invariably cite his statements in the wake of the deadly riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"President Trump called white supremacists 'very fine people!'" they shriek.
Only he didn't. He actually said the exact opposite.
In an on-camera statement just two hours after a white supremacist plowed his car into a group of protesters, killing 32 year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people, President Trump expressed his outrage:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.
The President's inclusion of the phrase "on many sides" immediately set off a media feeding frenzy. Even though violent members of Antifa had joined with those peacefully protesting the "Unite the Right" rally and had sparked physical altercations with the white supremacists attending the rally, Trump critics immediately pounced on what they considered to be equivocation.
It was nothing of the sort. The roughly 1,000 counter-protesters outnumbered the march attendees 2-to-1, and hours before the rally was supposed to start, Antifa members and white supremacists attacked one another with fists, bottles, smoke bombs, and even improvised chemical weapons. 14 people were injured in the chaos, prompting the City of Charlottesville and State of Virginia to declare a state of emergency.
Both sides were indeed responsible for the violence that morning. That afternoon, a white supremacist and a white supremacist alone was responsible for the deadly car crash.
In his initial remarks, it was clear that President Trump was discussing all of the events of that day, focusing in particular on their divisive nature; a point he made clearly:
We love our flag. We're proud of our country. We're proud of who we are, so we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we're doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen. My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other and cherish our history and our future together. So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.
His rather obvious point was that hate in any form has no place in America, but naturally those who hate him left this paragraph out of their attacks on him and focused solely on his "many sides" remark.
Two days later, on Monday, August 14th, the President addressed the incident again and again condemned the violent episode, this time expressly mentioning the white nationalism and white supremacist ideologies of the aborted rally's attendees:
As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America.
And as I have said many times before: No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.
Racism is evil. 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.
The press, though, was still unwilling to let the "many sides" comment go, and during a press conference at Trump Tower the following day hammered the President on his supposed inability to condemn white supremacists (even though he just did the day before).
"Mr. President, are you putting what you are calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?" a reporter shouted.
"I am not putting anybody on a moral plane," President Trump answered. "You had a group on one side and the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible. It was a horrible thing to watch. There is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You have just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You can say what you want. That's the way it is."
And it was, as every video of the riot clearly showed.
In answering the very next question--"You said there was hatred and violence on both sides?"--the President said something that has for nearly two years now been willfully and deceitfully misinterpreted (if not openly lied about) so as to provide evidence of his supposed racism. It is the very crux of the Charlottesville lie; that President Trump said that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who gathered there were "very fine people."
He said nothing of the sort and, in fact, said the exact opposite.
That, however, has been largely forgotten. This paragraph is all that is ever mentioned:
I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame object both on both sides. I have no doubt about it. You don't have doubt about it either. If you reported it accurately, you would say that the neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville. Excuse me. They didn't put themselves down as neo-Nazis. You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides.
Tellingly, the very next sentence is never, ever mentioned when the subject of President Trump and Charlottesville comes up.
"You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me," the President said. "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."
The "very fine people" he was talking about were the ones who showed up for the rally thinking it was a protest of the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue (a very controversial decision in Lee's home state), not the avowed racists in the crowd.
Don't believe it? Here's what Trump said next:
You had people and i'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists. They should be condemned totally. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. 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.
"Neo-Nazis and white supremacists...should be condemned totally" just may be the most forgotten phrase in the most forgotten paragraph in modern American politics.
It thoroughly disproves the ridiculous assertion that President Trump praised those white supremacists, yet the "very fine people" myth persists to this day. It would take just one paragraph to debunk it, but strangely that paragraph is never remembered...because it hasn't been heard in nearly two years.
It needs to be heard, though, if only to counter a rhetorical weapon that liberals wield every time a racial incident makes the news: "President Trump, who called neo-Nazis 'very fine people'..." "President Trump, who falsely said there was hatred on 'both sides'..." "President Trump, who refused to condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville...."
It is a complete fabrication, and an especially pernicious one because it is resurrected every time the "Trump is a racist" narrative needs to be resurrected. In reality, it is nothing more than the worst kind of smear; an allegation of bigotry without a shred of evidence to support it except for a dishonest echo chamber more interested in perpetuating a lie than in reporting the truth.