by Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer | The Hill
No American occupies a larger podium than the president of the United States, and the views of our top leader reverberate across the country. From that unique position, the president sets the tone for every political and cultural debate. Donald Trump, as much as any president before him, recognizes the power his words carry with the American public. That is precisely why his statements about “both sides” in the wake of violence in Charlottesville present such a grievous degradation to our political discourse.
Americans across the country and people around the world expected President Trump to condemn the violence, actions and hate speech of the white supremacist organizations rallying in Charlottesville earlier this month. For the past half-century, public officials across the country have categorically rejected the types of division and bigotry that those white supremacists spew, a recognition of the human rights of all Americans as well as the need to stand up for equality for our democracy to thrive.
Instead, what we received following the incidents in Charlottesville were remarks from President Trump that blamed both white supremacists and counter-protesters demonstrating in support of the fundamental American value of tolerance. Civility is not possible unless everyone first respects the equal rights of all Americans and condemns hate speech.