Tennessee lawmakers respond to protests in Charlottesville, President Trump

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – In the wake of the Charlottesville protests, there are strong opinions about President Trump’s comments.

Members of Congress in President Donald Trump’s own part were among those quick to criticize comments the President made in a news conference that laid blame on both sides of protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent over the weekend.

Related: Furor over Charlottesville follows Trump home to Manhattan 

President Donald Trump re-reads a statement he made on Saturday regarding the events in Charlottesville, Va., while addressing members of the media in the lobby of Trump Tower, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 in New York. Standing behind Trump is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Bowing to pressure from right and left, President Donald Trump condemned white supremacist groups by name on Monday, declaring “racism is evil” after two days of public equivocation and internal White House debate over the deadly race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. In a hastily arranged statement at the White House, Trump branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

Then on Tuesday, the president seemed to double-down on what he’d originally said. “What about the alt-left that came charging, as you say, at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt,” asked President Trump.

WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to a number of East Tennessee lawmakers to find out their thoughts on the hatred and chaos happening in Charlottesville, the President’s response so far, and what they would do with Confederate statues in our region.

“It’s despicable. It was repugnant. To have a young lady with a future in front that is mowed down by a vehicle, it is terrorism,” said Senator Bob Corker.

“I think they’re vile and disgusting and though I understand they have a right to believe what they want to,” added Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

Senator Corker held a luncheon Wednesday in downtown Knoxville where attendees could ask him questions. During the lunch, only one question was asked about Charlottesville and it was about the president’s comments.

“Look I’ll let the president’s comments speak for themselves. There are plenty of people who editorialize about those. I’m responsible for my comments,” said Senator Corker.

“I don’t listen to the national news, but if he was anything less than disgusted with anything to do with Nazi-ism, then I think he was making a mistake,” said Mayor Burchett.

The outrage in Charlottesville is happening because of the removal of a Confederate statue.

“Frankly if something was up that people found offensive, I would take a look at it,” said Mayor Burchett.

Senator Corker referenced concerns about the Nathan Bedford bust at Tennessee’s capital saying, “obviously it’s a part of our history and that’s what museums are for. But as far as what you’re championing, what you’re displaying at a capital like that, probably there’s a better choice. So if I were in the general assembly, which I’m not it’s a state issue, I would probably vote, I would vote to move it to a museum and move in another symbol of our past.”

While there’s much unrest happening across the country and in Charlottesville, many lawmakers are asking for it to end.

Senator Lamar Alexander’s office sending us a statement saying, “Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, like any racists, tear apart the American character. They deny that we are all Americans without regard to race, creed, or background.”

Senator Alexander added that he will continue opposing those who would close doors to any American.

Also sharing in the situation, Congressman Jimmy Duncan, “It is a sin to hate anyone and especially sinful to hate someone because of their race or religion. Racism and bigotry should not be tolerated in our Country, state or communities. However, the President was correct in condemning everyone who resorted to violence in this situation.”

Congressman Phil Roe’s office saying in a statement, “My thoughts and prayers continue to be with Charlottesville; I am saddened by the senseless acts of violence that occurred over the weekend. Racially-motivated intimidation and violence have no place in today’s society. Groups like the KKK, Neo-Nazis and other movements fueled by hate must be condemned in the strongest terms. These groups are not representative of American values.”

Congressman Diane Black saying, “I’ve condemned the events over the weekend and when President Trump said the same, I pointed out that I agree with him. End of story. It is domestic terrorism and I think every American agrees with that – this absolutely vile racism, hatred and bigotry by groups opposing American values has no place in our society and my heart goes out to the victims affected by this violence. We need to come together right now as a country and work to make the lives of all Americans better rather than inciting fear.”

Congressman Fleischmann shared the following, “The events that occurred in Charlottesville are sickening and must be condemned in the strongest terms. White supremacy groups, Neo-Nazis, and the KKK promote evil ideologies that have no place in our society. This year has seen a rash of political violence, and it is time we stand up nation as a nation and say, ‘no more’.”

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