Rep. Will Hurd called on President Donald Trump to apologize for his latest remarks on recent violence sparked by a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hurd, who is African-American, is also one of the most vulnerable House Republicans.
“Nobody should doubt whether the leader of the free world is against racism, bigotry, neo-Nazis and anti-Semitism,” Hurd said in an interview on CNN Thursday evening.
Violence erupted Saturday in Charlottesville as white nationalists and neo-Nazis clashed with counter-protesters over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. One woman was killed and dozens were injured when a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters.
Trump did not specifically condemn the white supremacists until Monday, drawing the ire of Democrats and a number of congressional Republicans.
But on Tuesday, Trump backtracked, saying “both sides” were to blame for the violence. Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke thanked Trump on Twitter for his comments.
“I don’t think anybody should be looking at getting props from a grand dragon of the KKK as any kind of sign of success,” Hurd said.
Asked what his message was for the president, Hurd said, “Apologize. And that racism bigotry, anti-semitism of any form is unacceptable. And the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that.”
Hurd also said the country should be talking about why some groups are becoming radicalized, how to prevent that radicalization, why white supremacists feel emboldened, and if law enforcement has enough resources to deal with the issue.
Hurd, a former C.I.A. agent, faces a tough re-election fight in a rated Tossup by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Hillary Clinton won Hurd’s district by roughly 3 points last November, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.
Hurd has criticized Trump in the past, but his comments Tuesday evening were some of the most forceful by a Republican in the wake of the Charlottesville violence.
Fellow Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who’s long been outspoken against Trump, also condemned the president’s remarks.
“POTUS just doesn’t get it,” the Florida congressman tweeted Tuesday evening. “No moral equivalence between manifestations for and against white supremacy. He’s got to stop.”
Like Hurd, Curbleo is among the most vulnerable House Republicans in 2018. His 26th District voted for Hillary Clinton by 16 points. He was among the earliest GOP members of Congress to say he wouldn’t vote for Trump last year, and this year, hasn’t been afraid to bring up the prospect of impeachment.
Another top Democratic target, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, called out the president directly on Twitter Tuesday evening.
"Mr. President, there were not 'very fine people' on the NeoNazi, white supremacist side; only haters. Grateful DOJ understands this," she tweeted, re-upping her statement on Saturday criticizing the neo-Nazi march.
Mr. President, there were not "very fine people" on the NeoNazi, white supremacist side; only haters. Grateful DOJ understands this. https://t.co/MDmYPcUP5h— Barbara Comstock (@BarbaraComstock) August 15, 2017
Comstock won re-election last fall by 6 points in a district Clinton won by 10 points. She's bucked her party and the president when she's needed to, mostly recently voting against the GOP health care plan.
Minnesota GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, another vulnerable member in 2018, offered a more subtle rebuke of the president’s remarks. "This is cut-and-dry: White supremacists & neo-Nazis have no place in our society & that should be made unequivocally clear on all levels," he tweeted.
Paulsen is a top Democratic target in 2018. Hillary Clinton won his 3rd District by 9 points last fall.
This is cut-and-dry: White supremacists & neo-Nazis have no place in our society & that should be made unequivocally clear on all levels— Rep. Erik Paulsen (@RepErikPaulsen) August 15, 2017
Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, also chimed in.
"I don't understand what's so hard about this," he tweeted. "White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn't be defended."
I don't understand what's so hard about this. White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn't be defended.— Steve Stivers (@RepSteveStivers) August 15, 2017