August 13, 2017

Booker slams Trump for 'hateful hypocrisy' in response to Charlottesville violence

White House updates statement in wake of deadly attack

Politics Attacks
Cory Booker Seth Wenig/AP

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., participates in a news conference in Newark, New Jersey, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on Sunday joined a chorus of politicians blasting President Donald Trump for an equivocal response to yesterday's violent attack against counterprotesters in Charlottesville, suggesting the president showed "hateful hypocrisy" in his failure to directly condemn the rally staged by white nationalist groups. 

Violence erupted Saturday as a group of white nationalists assembled to oppose the city's plans to remove a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hundreds had faced off in advance of the downtown Charlottesville protest, many of them expecting a confrontation. 

Hours after anti-racist protesters clashed with the demonstrators, a car deliberately plowed through a peaceful crowd, killing one person and injuring at least 19 others. Two Virginia state troopers later died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the tense situation on the ground.

The driver of the vehicle, 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr., had been seen earlier in the day displaying symbols for Vanguard America, a group that opposes the "false notion of equality" and is organized around a platform to elevate white identity. Fields is charged with second-degree murder.

In the aftermath of the attack, President Trump issued a prepared statement from his resort in Bedminster, New Jersy, stopping short of denouncing the white nationalist groups central to the protest.

“The hate and division must stop. And must stop right now,” Trump said. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

Booker, who has been among the president's sharpest critics, blasted Trump in a lengthy statement on Facebook. 

"On Saturday, President Trump demonstrated a hateful hypocrisy in failing to name the Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, Alt-Right hate for what it is: not only the cause of the horrific violence in Virginia, but the evil enemy of our Nation’s hope and promise," Booker wrote.

"President Trump’s words in his statement -- 'hatred, bigotry and violence that's on many sides' -- not only fuels a misleading account of what actually happened but shamefully puts the counter-protesters on the same moral level and as those carrying Nazi flags and chanting vile racist rants."

By Sunday afternoon, facing mounting pressure from politicians on both sides of the aisle, the White House issued an updated statement that was not directly attributed to President Trump.

"Condemnation is expected. Anger is understood," Booker's own statement continued. "But only action, work, sacrifice and struggle will yield progress. The focus should not just be about what 'they' did in Virginia, but what we will do where we are to advance our nation toward greater justice."