After facing criticism, Trump calls racism 'evil', neo-Nazis 'repugnant'
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US President Donald Trump denounced white supremacists including neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan on Monday, and said racism, hatred and bigotry had no place in America following a violent white-nationalist rally in Virginia.
Trump had been assailed by Republicans and Democrats alike for failing to respond more forcefully to Saturday's violence in Charlottesville, in which a woman was killed when a man crashed his car into a group of counter-protesters.
"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," Trump said in a statement to reporters at the White House.
Critics said the US president had waited too long to address the bloodshed, and slammed him for failing to explicitly condemn the white supremacists widely seen as sparking the melee.
In the hours after the incident on Saturday, Trump had addressed the violence in broad strokes, saying that he condemned "in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."
NEW: White House clarifies Pres. Trump’s statement after Charlottesville: “He condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred" pic.twitter.com/mjjHsE7doF— ABC News (@ABC) August 13, 2017
In a strong rebuke to the president, the chief executive of one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, Merck & Co Inc, resigned from a business panel led by Trump, citing a need for leadership countering bigotry.
CEO Kenneth Frazier, who is black, did not name Trump or criticize him directly in a statement posted on the drug company's Twitter account, but the rebuke was implicit.
"America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy," said Frazier.
Wow, brutal graphic from Fox News pic.twitter.com/0KZZW2BBGd— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 13, 2017
A 20-year-old man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies as a teenager is facing charges he plowed his car into protesters opposing the white nationalists, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people.
The accused, James Alex Fields, was denied bail at an initial court hearing on Monday.
Earlier in the day, Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said the violence in Charlottesville "does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute."
He told ABC's "Good Morning America": "You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America."
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)