U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned white supremacists and racial hatred Wednesday, saying, “Their message of hate and bigotry are not welcome in Kentucky and should not be welcome anywhere in America.”
The Louisville Republican made the statement one day after a group of white nationalists announced that it plans to come to Lexington to protest the proposed removal of two Confederate statues from downtown Lexington. The group has not said when it plans to protest.
“We have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred,” McConnell said Wednesday in a written statement. “There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”
Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, also said Tuesday that “hate and bigotry have no place in Kentucky,” but he also said that he disagrees with removing Confederate symbols and monuments from government property, calling it the “sanitization of history.”
McConnell was quick to condemn the “hate and bigotry” in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday after one woman was killed and dozens were injured in a clash between white supremacists and counter-protestors. McConnell, though, has remained silent on President Donald Trump’s handling of the matter.
Trump has been criticized by many people — including several prominent Republicans — for waiting two days before specifically condemning white supremacist and other hate groups who rallied in Virginia.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” he said. “I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.”
He also suggested that not all of the protesters were white supremacists. “Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the state of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “This week, it is Robert E. Lee, and I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming. I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
Trump’s comments brought a strong rebuke from at least one Republican with close ties to McConnell.
Scott Jennings, a CNN political commentator who has played key roles in McConnell’s last three elections, said Tuesday night on CNN that Trump was making it “impossible” for the GOP to stand behind him.
“I’ll tell you what I’m hearing from Republicans tonight, and that is a very simple message for the president: ‘Mr. President, we want to be with you in policy, but you are making it impossible for us to be with you in spirit. Moral clarity is required of the office of the president,’” said Jennings, who runs a public relations firm in Louisville.
“You cannot say that there are good people standing in this rally, because if a good person left their house and went to this event and showed up and the person next to them was holding a Nazi flag, and they chose not to go home, then by definition they checked their good-person card at the gate,” Jennings said. “So the only people left at the rally were not the good people, and to try to say that there was a smattering of bad people mixed in with good people absolutely vacates the moral clarity required of the office of the president.”
Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Mac Brown released a statement Wednesday condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but he was silent about Trump.
“While neither side of the political spectrum is immune from this growing menace, the terrible events of this past weekend in Charlottesville and the looming threat of a similar rally in Lexington are being perpetrated by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and their supporters,” Brown said. “While they may choose to loosely affiliate themselves with the Republican Party, we will not allow ourselves to be affiliated with them.”