Romney issues scathing statement: Trump must apologize

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday issued a lengthy, scathing rebuke of President Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, saying he had caused "the vast heart of America to mourn."

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Romney said that Trump's words blaming "many sides" for the violence "caused racists to rejoice" and "minorities to weep."

"His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric."

"The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize," Romney said.

Trump sparked an uproar Tuesday when he said there were "very fine people" on both sides of a white supremacist rally in Virginia.

Republicans widely denounced the remarks, while David Duke, a former leader of the KKK, and white supremacist Richard Spencer were quick to praise them.

Romney said Trump needs to go further in disavowing their support.

"Once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association," Romney wrote.

"In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?"

The former Massachusetts governor said the president's remarks about Charlottesville also damaged America's standing in the world.

"Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished," he added. "And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?"

Romney and Trump have had a strained relationship over the years.

While Trump endorsed Romney for president in 2012, Romney did not return the favor in 2016. Instead, he warned Republicans that Trump was "a phony [and] a fraud" who would lead the nation into the "abyss."

They appeared to patch things up after the election, with Trump considering whether to appoint Romney as secretary of State. But he instead chose then-Exxon Mobil CEO Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation Trump concealed details of meetings with Putin from senior officials: report Forget the border wall, a coup in Guatemala is the real emergency MORE.

Romney said the controversy over Charlottesville is a "defining moment" for Trump.

"But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country."

This story was updated at 10:21 a.m.