Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, has chastised President Donald Trump for asserting that white supremacists and anti-racist protesters were equally responsible for the violence that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia. Sullivan joined a handful of Senate Republicans who publicly criticized the president for his controversial remarks.
On Aug. 17, Sullivan took to social media to assert that the alt-right rally in Charlottesville merited a full-throated condemnation without equivocation.
"Anything less than complete & unambiguous condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK by the [President of the United States] is unacceptable," Sullivan tweeted out. "Period."
On Aug. 11, hundreds of white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. Members of the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi movement and the alt-right chanted racial epithets and wielded torches on the University of Virginia campus. Several of them voiced support for the president. On Aug,. 12, more white nationalists joined the original crowd to stage a so-called "Unite the Right" rally.
That rally ended in murder when alt-right member James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly plowed his vehicle into a crowd of anti-racist counter protesters. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others were injured. Virginia state troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates also died in a helicopter crash while surveying the rally, The Washington Post reports.
On Aug. 15, Trump asserted during a White House press conference that the counter protesters shared equal responsibility with the white nationalists for the violence at the Charlottesville rally.
"You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent," Trump said, according to CNBC. "And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now ... I do think there's blame on both sides."
The president also asserted that not all participants in the alt-right rally were white supremacists and that there were "very fine people on both sides."
"I've condemned neo-Nazis," Trump said. "I've condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me ... And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly."
Several GOP lawmakers publicly rebuked Trump's assertion that there was an equivalence between the white nationalists and the anti-racist counter protesters. On Aug. 16, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released a statement denouncing Trump's remarks, CNN reports.
"Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer," Graham said. "I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency."
On Aug. 17, Trump took to social media to fire back against Graham, citing the South Carolina senator's unsuccessful presidential campaign during the 2016 GOP primary.
"[Graham] just can't forget his election trouncing," Trump tweeted out. "The people of South Carolina will remember!"
That evening, GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee also criticized Trump's Charlottesville response and asserted that the president needed a course correction in order to succeed.
"The president has not been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful," Corker told the media during a Rotary Club event in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nooga reports.
"[Trump] also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation," Corker added, according to CNBC. "He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today."