What N.H.’s elected Republicans say of ‘blame on both sides’ for rally violence

  • Gov. Chris Sununu speaks with the Monitor in Bedford on Tuesday, April. 11, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Senate majority leader Jeb Bradley is seen during a New Hampshire Senate session at the State House in downtown Concord on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper listens as he is endorsed after announcing his plans to seek re-election to Speaker at a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 in New York. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Monitor staff
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu drew a line between white supremacists and counter-protesters who clashed in Chartlottesville, Va., over the weekend, in contrast to President Donald Trump’s remarks Tuesday.

“The President’s comments yesterday were deeply disappointing,” Sununu said Wednesday in a statement, his first comments on the matter since Trump’s press conference 24 hours earlier. “There is no moral equivalence between those who espouse racism and hatred and those who stand up against it.”

Nationally, Republican reaction to the president’s remarks that “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence over the weekend in Charlottesville continue to grow following Trump’s unscripted exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in New York.

Similarly, New Hampshire’s elected Republican leaders diverged from the president’s defense of some “very fine people, on both sides.”

“White supremacy is repulsive and is a form of bigotry that always needs to be countered with the strongest condemnation,” Senate President Chuck Morse said Wednesday. “I stand against the actions of white supremacy protesters. Their actions need to be marginalized. I disagree with the President’s statements on this matter.”

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said he concurred with Morse.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper stopped short of mentioning the president, but condemned racism in all forms.

“Hate speech and groups that perpetrate hate have no place in American civil discourse, and no place in the Live Free or Die state,” Jasper said. “White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and other groups who perpetrate hate and intolerance should be condemned at every opportunity by our citizens and leaders.”

On Tuesday night and again Wednesday, the Monitor reached out to Sununu for comment. On Wednesday morning, the Monitor emailed all 14 Republican state senators seeking a comment. Similar emails went out to the 37 Republican state representatives in the Monitor’s coverage area, as well as to Jasper and House Majority Leader Dick Hinch.

The newspaper reached out to Republicans because Trump is the de facto leader of the party.

The Monitor sought answers to these two questions:

“Do you agree that anti-racism protesters were just as responsible as neo-Nazi and white nationalist marchers for the violence?” And: “What is your reaction to the president’s statement during Tuesday’s press conference that there were some ‘very fine people’ among the neo-Nazi and white nationalist marchers?”

In total, the Monitor received five responses to 54 requests.

With the state’s large and varied body of legislators, not everyone agreed.

First-term state Rep. Brian Stone of Northwood said he stood by the president.

“I do not believe it is fair to blame one side more than the other,” Stone said. “Such a measure is subjective and naturally opens up the window to insert political bias. What is clear however, is there is blame to go around on all sides. There are two sides to every story. This is what President Trump stated, and I stand by that as a matter of fact.”

Stone condemned the opinions of white supremacists, and defended their right to lawfully protest.

“From my understanding, it was the counter protestors (whom did not have a permit) who blocked the path of the white supremacists from reaching the General Lee statue (where they were legally permitted to protest),” he said in an email. “This is illegal under various statutes. It should be obvious to everyone that such action amongst hot heads on both sides would lead to violence.”

Stone continued: “In regards to the murder in Charlottesville, I’m not going to hold an entire group of people to the fire because of the actions of one individual. That would be completely ridiculous.”

Stone questioned the newspaper’s motives for asking the questions of only Republicans and not asking Democrats about the “violent and illegal actions” of groups like “Black Lives Matter” and “Antifa,” and chalked it up to bias.

He said violence should not be tolerated in America.

“We are all Americans and we need to bring ourselves together; not push each other away,” he said. “We need to raise ourselves to a higher level and realize we are one tribe in reality.”