Trump's Charlottesville comments push North Korea from spotlight

President TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE's comments on the violent clashes that broke out at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., dominated Sunday morning political shows that just a day earlier had been ready to focus on heightened tensions with North Korea.

Top White House aides on Sunday defended the president, who faced criticism for denouncing violence by "many sides" in Charlottesville and not directly calling out hate groups marching in the city.


National security adviser H.R. McMaster, for example, spoke out strongly against bigotry and hatred in his defense of Trump.

"The president has been very clear," McMaster said on ABC's "This Week." "We cannot tolerate this kind of bigotry, this kind of hatred. And what he did is he called on all Americans to take a firm stand against it."

It's important for tolerance to overcome this hatred, McMaster added.

"This kind of hatred that is grounded really in ignorance, ignorance of our values and what makes us unique as Americans," he said.

"Our commitment to each other, our commitment to freedom, liberty, tolerance and rights for all of us."

White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert echoed McMaster's comments during an appearance on another Sunday show.

"The president not only condemned the violence and stood up at a time and a moment when calm was necessary and didn't dignify the names of these groups of people, but rather addressed the fundamental issue," Bossert said on CNN's "State of the Union." "What you need to focus on is the rest of his statement."

Trump didn't just call for people to respect one another, he said, but called for "Americans to love one another, for all of God's children to love one another."

"That is a fundamental assault on the hatred that we're seeing here," Bossert added.

But other officials and lawmakers chided Trump for his response, saying the president should have gone farther in his statement condemning the violence.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer (D) said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" that his city has been through a lot over the last century.

"We have come in this country through McCarthyism, segregation, Jim Crow, and we've come through stronger than before that," Signer said. "But what's going to happen now is that we're all going to stand together on this new effort and that begins with a city like Charlottesville, but it should include the president."

Signer pointed campaign Trump ran.

"Look at the intentional courting, both on the one hand all of these white supremacist, white nationalist groups like that, anti-Semitic groups," he said. "And then look on the other hand the repeated failure to step up and condemn, denounce, silence, put to bed, all of those different efforts just like we saw yesterday, and this is not hard."

Signer during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" also said it's time for the white nationalist movement to come to an end.

"The time has come for this to stop. This should be a turning point. This movement jumped the shark, and it happened yesterday," he said. "People are dying, and I do think that it's now on the president and on all of us to say enough is enough. This movement has run its course."

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, meanwhile, said he thinks Trump should have been "harsher" in his statement.

"I wouldn't have recommended that statement," Scaramucci said on ABC's "This Week." "I think he needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists and the nature of that."

What happened in Virginia was terrorism, he added.

"Whether it's domestic or international terrorism, with the moral authority of the presidency, you have to call that stuff out."

"Moral authority" was also the focus of Ben Rhodes's comments on ABC's "This Week.

The former deputy national security adviser for President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama limiting birthday party to family, close friends amid COVID-19 concerns Azar regrets Trump didn't get vaccinated on national TV Franklin D. Roosevelt's prescient warning MORE criticized Trump for his response to the violent rally, saying Trump's comments show he is "surrendering the moral authority of the office of the president of the United States."

"I think there are huge costs to that for the nation, because people look to a president to put these events in context and bring people together," Ben Rhodes said.

GOP senators also spoke out on Sunday, calling for the president to do more to distance himself from white supremacists who are supportive of his presidency.

“I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he’s their friend,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Simone wins bronze with altered beam routine The job of shielding journalists is not finished The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions MORE (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I like President Trump. It’s up to him to correct the record here, not me,” Graham later added.

Graham also said he is "glad" members of the alt-right don't view him as their friend.

“We need more from our president on this issue.”

And Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms MORE (R-Colo.) said white nationalists can't be a part of any party or candidate's base.

"White nationalists, white supremacists, they're not a part of anybody's base. They're not a part of this country," Gardner said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"They're a part of hatred, they're a part of evil, and we need to stand up to that."

Gardner emphasized the importance of calling the hatred what it is.

"Whether it's the president of the United States, a senator from any of our great 50 states around the country, or our city councils and school teachers, call it for what it is," he added.

"It's hatred, it's bigotry. We don't want them in our base, they shouldn't be in a base, they shouldn't be claimed as part of a base, and it has to be made crystal clear."

During a press conference on Saturday, Trump condemned the violence that occurred in Virginia. But he stopped short of naming specific hate groups involved and said "many sides" held responsible for the violence.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides," Trump said at a press conference.

"It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time," he continued.

The White House on Sunday came to the defense of Trump, saying his comments included "all extremist groups."

"The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred," the White House said in a statement. "Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."

Three people died in Charlottesville on Saturday, including one counter-protester and two police officers whose helicopter crashed. Dozens were injured.