Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and some other Republicans have criticized President Donald Trump‘s response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., but U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, says Trump has shown leadership.
Trump on Monday specifically condemned “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” But the president has come under fire for saying in a Tuesday news conference that “there’s blame on both sides” for Saturday’s violence and that there were some “very fine people” among those protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Mast, in an interview before Thursday night’s Palm Beach County GOP Lobsterfest outside Boca Raton, said Trump’s “both sides” remarks don’t dilute his criticism of white supremacists.
“I think there is no place anywhere that the color of somebody’s skin should equate to their value and I think that the president shows leadership when he is willing to call out — in the face of adversity, of people yelling at him — that there are people to blame, there are bad actors on both sides. That shouldn’t take away from the neo-Nazis, the hate groups that should never be accepted by anybody. But it shows leadership to be able to stand up to that kind of a front from people yelling at him for calling out people that are bad on any side,” Mast said.
Many of the 420 attendees at the annual dinner said Trump’s words have been unfairly distorted by his opponents and the media.
“I think his presidency’s going great. He just has unprecedented attacks by a media that hates him,” said Palm Beach County Republican State Committeeman Joe Budd, one of Trump’s earliest local supporters.
Said Budd: “When he made the statement there were good people on both sides, in context, both sides of what? A protest. That doesn’t mean there were good people in the neo-Nazis, white supremacists. There weren’t any good people in there. But there were good people in the protest for keeping the statue up and there were good people in the protest for tearing the statue down. That’s what the good people on both sides simply means.”
Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, however, said he wishes Trump had stuck with his “good statement” from Monday.
“At the (Tuesday) press conference, he should have said ‘I stand by my statement on the previous day’ — period,” Abrams said.
Agriculture Commissioner and candidate for governor Adam Putnam avoided critiquing Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
“I’ve been very clear in my own statements that hate has no place in our society. From the white supremacists, from the anti-Semitic movement, hate and violence won’t be tolerated. And I think it’s important that all people in leadership positions be very clear about that. That’s why I’ve been crystal clear about it,” Putnam said in an interview.
Asked if Trump has been clear about it, Putnam said: “Well, I believe that it’s important that he be clear and I certainly have been clear in my own statements about that.”