Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney said the country is “crying out” for moral leadership from President Donald Trump after last weekend’s racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump’s response to it.
Rooney, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a devout Catholic, told the Naples Daily News that previous presidents used a unifying and healing tone after similar incidents.
“The role of the presidency is the person who is leading our direction, and that’s very important. And past presidents have referred to our moral principles and have had a healing tone and a unifying tone,” he said.
“I would like to see the president do more of that. I think the country needs it. I think the country is crying out for it,” Rooney said.
The Florida Republican said if he were president he would say, “We need to come together in this country and oppose white supremacists and others that divide us in hate and create violence.”
Rooney said he didn’t know all the facts, but he placed the blame on the white nationalists for the clashes between them and counter-protesters.
“The only ones I know who are to blame right now, based on what has been presented, are the supremacists,” he said.
This is in contrast to Trump’s remarks that there was blame on “both sides” for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville.
The protests in Charlottesville led to the death of a Virginia woman after a car allegedly driven by a white supremacist crashed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Rooney said police should have expected the violence when white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan came to protest the removal of a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“What happened in Charlottesville was a failure to make sure the counter-protesters were protected,” he said.