While many Republican lawmakers have privately grumbled over President Donald Trump’s response to the violence that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, most stopped short of calling out the president by name.
Not Rep. Paul Mitchell, who tagged Trump’s @POTUS account on Twitter Tuesday to tell the president, “You can’t be a ‘very fine person’ and be a white supremacist.”
The Michigan Republican was referring to Trump’s comments at a news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Tuesday in which the president said there were “very fine people” among both the white supremacists who’d scheduled a rally over the weekend in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue there and the anti-fascist counter-protesters who clashed with them on the streets.
You can’t be a “very fine person” and be a white supremacist @POTUS
“We need to be careful how we express things,” Mitchell told CNN’s “Outfront” on Wednesday night.
“The KKK, neo-Nazis, are fundamentally opposed to what our Constitution is about, which is equality of all men, so it’s pretty simple to call them out.”
And Mitchell disagreed with Trump’s assessment that “very fine people” were involved in the originally scheduled protests.
“I don’t believe you can be a fine person and a white supremacist,” he said. “They’re mutually exclusive, can’t use them in the same line.”
The way he sees it, Mitchell said, “fine people… get out of Dodge” when they see others holding swastika-emblazoned flags and objects and yelling Nazi slogans.
“They leave, they get out of the area,” he said. “You don’t stick around to see what happens. So, unfortunately, I don’t buy the argument that somehow fine people got caught up in this.”
After Charlottesville police on Saturday declared an unlawful assembly and cleared the area around the statue, skirmishes broke out between pockets of protesters and counter-protesters. They carried shields and clubs, hurled rocks, and unleashed strings of obscenities at each other.
James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, of Ohio, was arrested for allegedly plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and sending 19 people to the hospital.
Fields was charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in death.
The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the incident.
In his interview Wednesday, Mitchell called for more civility in the political arena and warned that violence was counterproductive to achieving results.
“People can disagree without throwing punches, using clubs, and when you get to that, it’s destructive,” he said.
“I serve in Congress with people across the aisle. I don’t agree with them and some of them are my good friends. Even when we have heated debates, I certainly wouldn’t punch them. Let’s be adults here and make a difference. That’s why I went to Congress.”