DHS chief on Charlottesville: ‘It’s not that one side is right and one side is wrong’
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Thursday spoke about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year, saying “it’s not that one side is right and one side is wrong.”
Her comments were made when she was pressed to address remarks made at the time by President Trump, who blamed violence that erupted at the rally on “both sides,” equivocating the white supremacist rally with counterprotesters.
“I think what’s important about that conversation is, it’s not that one side is right and one side is wrong,” Nielsen said at an Aspen Security Forum event. “Anybody that is advocating violence, we need to work to mitigate.”
White nationalist, white supremacist and alt-right groups planned the Unite the Right march as a protest against the Charlottesville City Council’s vote to remove Confederate statues and rename parks named after Confederate soldiers.
The event erupted in violence when counterprotesters clashed with the demonstrators and police stepped in to break up the event. One counterprotester, Heather Heyer, died when a car allegedly driven by a man connected with the white supremacist protesters plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Critics have compared Trump’s “both sides” comment after Charlottesville with his recent comments on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. On Monday, Trump implied that he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial of Russian meddling in the election, despite the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia did seek to influence the election.
Nielsen said on Thursday that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election, but she said it was harder to say if they did so to benefit the Republican Party.
“I think what we have seen on the foreign influence side is that they were attempting to intervene and cause chaos on both sides, whether it’s in Charlottesville — both sides — whether it’s in Syria — both sides,” Nielsen said.
Critics have continually slammed Trump for his tendency to draw moral equivalences between parties that they believe should be regarded differently, including the parallels he has drawn between Charlottesville neo-Nazis and counterprotesters, Democrats and MS-13, and Russia and the U.S.