NH GOP members criticize Trump’s ‘blame both sides’ remark

  • Republican political analyst Tom Rath discusses the first 82 days of President Donald Trump's administration with Carsey School of Public Policy Director Michael Ettlinger at the University of New Hampshire Wednesday. Monitor file

  • Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich (right) has lunch with Republican operative Tom Rath on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, in Derry. Rath, a Republican operative, served as senior national adviser and co-chair of Kasich’s New Hampshire campaign. AP file

  • New Hampshire GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn speaks on Jan. 23 at the New Hampshire Republican State Committee town hall in Nashua. AP

Monitor staff
Published: 8/15/2017 9:24:41 PM

Two prominent members of the state’s Republican party criticized President Donald Trump’s continued insistence that both the white supremacists and those protesting against them were to blame for the violence this past weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

Former NH GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn and longtime Republican strategist Tom Rath both tweeted Tuesday night negative opinions on the president’s press conference earlier that day. Both expressed dissatisfaction with the president’s reluctance to condemn the white supremacists outright.

“This is not a time for political parsing-this is a time when our President must speak to our national character+condemn those who stain it,” Rath tweeted. In a separate tweet, he continued: “POTUS showed a total lack of understanding of the genuine+endurng (sic) decency of this country-We are better than this+we are better than him.”

Horn focused her comments on equivocation. “Stop equivocation. Racism, bigotry, supremacy is unAmericans&unacceptable in America. ALL Republicans must put their voices to this truth.”

Violence broke out Saturday in Charlottesville after a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists assembled to protest the city’s decision to remove a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Prosecutors have charged James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio in the case.

Trump said Tuesday that the groups protesting against white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., were “also very violent.” He called those protesters the “alt-left,” and said there is “blame on both sides” after the deadly violence.

Horn said Tuesday night that the president’s unwillingness to separate the actions of the nationalist’s violence from the actions of the counter-protestors was “discouraging.”

“As Republicans. we believe in the equality of all men, period. It’s the core of everything we believe,” she said. “We cannot embrace the ideology of bigotry. ... I was encouraged when I saw so many Republicans come forward on Saturday and articulate that message, and I was pleased with Governor Sununu’s statement. But here we are three or four days later, and the president is still struggling to get the message straight.”

Gov. Chris Sununu told NHPR on Sunday that the Charlottesville protest was “absolutely disgusting.”

“That kind of racism, you know, this white supremacy stuff – it’s just, there’s absolutely no place for it,” he said.

Horn drew ire from Trump’s campaign during the primary season, when she called his campaign “shallow” and said she did not expect Trump to succeed in New Hampshire. Her comment led Trump’s New Hampshire chairman, state Rep. Steve Stepanek, and his allies, to call for Horn’s resignation, saying she violated party neutrality rules.

But Horn said it’s the job of all Republicans to hold presidents to a higher standard, as she said they did with former president Barack Obama. But she also said Trump is not responsible for the actions and racist views of white supremacist groups, despite some of them showing support for the president.

“Racism has existed since the birth of the nation and long before that,” she said. “I reject outright that there’s anything in today’s Republican principles, that we advance in our policies that is in any way responsible for the ideology and violence that comes with it.”

Rath said his comments were partially inspired by a recent trip he and his wife took to Germany, where they visited Nuremberg. While he was quick to say the United States was nowhere near a Holocaust situation, he said it would be morally irresponsible to not challenge Trump’s comments.

“The idea that there are two sides here, when one side came with helmets, battle shields, and batons – it’s just wrong,” he said. “It’s not who were are. People say they had a permit, but the permit was not to commit violence against other people.”

Rath, who served as Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s senior national adviser during his 2016 presidential primary campaign, said he was troubled by the what he called the Trump campaign’s ability to fuel people’s nationalist sentiments.

“They seemed to understand better than other candidates that concern that’s out there,” he said. “They harnessed that anger and won.”

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ActualCAndrews.)

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