On national television Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich ripped into President Donald Trump for failing to unequivocally condemn white supremacists but the governor stopped short of saying Republicans should no longer support Trump.
“You’re not going to turn your back on the president. You’re going to speak clearly and bluntly and say ‘Get your act together,’” Kasich said in a six-minute interview on the Today Show. “President Trump needs to listen to the people before he takes this presidency in a place that is not acceptable for this country.”
Kasich, a high-profile Republican who refused to endorse Trump for president last year, said the president’s comment that there is blame on “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville is terrible.
“To no condemn these people who went there to carry out violence and to somehow draw some kind of equivalency to somebody else reduces the ability to totally condemn these hate groups,” Kasich said.
Kasich said he is concerned that hate groups now feel emboldened by a perceived victory. “There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-Nazis and anybody else,” he said.
Kasich said in a tweet posted Tuesday: “There is no moral equivalency to Nazi sympathizers. There can be no room in America — or the Republican Party — for racism, anti-Semitism, hate or white nationalism. Period.” Other Ohio politicos, including U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, also condemned the white supremacists and violence.
In his initial statement about the violence in Charlottesville, the president placed blame “on many sides.” That led to a firestorm of criticism. On Monday, he read a prepared statement that clearly condemned hate groups, including the KKK and neo-Nazis. But on Tuesday, he reversed course and said the groups protesting the white supremacists were “also very violent” and there is “blame on both sides.”
Other statewide reaction
Democrats expressed dismay, with Sen. Sherrod Brown tweeting, "There are not 'many sides' to blame for #Charlottesville. There is right and wrong. White nationalism, hatred and bigotry are wrong."
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Twp., tweeted @realdonaldtrump is blaming both sides AGAIN & he thinks white nationalist are "fine people.”
Ohio Republicans also decried the response.
"I don't understand what's so hard about this,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington. “White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn't be defended."
Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, also expressed dismay.
“Unfortunately, the President deflected from the fact that a young woman was killed and many others were injured by a bigoted follower of the alt-right and white supremacist movement,” he said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, tweeted that “the response to this ideology of hate & bigotry, & the act of domestic terrorism should be simple & united condemnation without ambiguity.”
“We must speak out clearly against the hatred, racism and white supremacists who descended upon #Charlottesville,” he tweeted.
Washington Bureau reporter Jessica Wehrman contributed to this report