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Congressional Republicans including Speaker Johnson, Elise Stefanik, Rick Scott Silent as Trump Repeatedly Minimizes Deadly Charlottesville Rally as ‘Little Peanut’

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has in recent days repeatedly minimized the horrific weekend in August 2017 when tiki torch-wielding neo-Nazis marched through the streets of Charlottesville and later murdered counter-protester Heather Heyer.

In a social media post last Wednesday, Trump downplayed the white supremacist rally where neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us” and concluded with the murder of Heyer as “a little peanut.” Following proceedings in his criminal trial the next day, Trump again minimized the racist gathering, which resulted in Heyer’s tragic death and injuries to nearly 20 other counter-protesters. The White House quickly rebuked Trump’s remarks. “Minimizing the antisemitic and white supremacist poison displayed in Charlottesville is repugnant and divisive,” Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said

But in one of the most startling examples yet of how deadly white nationalism and antisemitism have totally gripped the GOP, no Congressional Republicans have vocally denounced Trump’s remarks – including several who condemned the deadly white supremacist rally back in 2017.

What Speaker Mike Johnson said about Charlottesville in 2017: Speaker Johnson, then a freshman lawmaker, offered one of the firmest statements on Charlottesville. While he did not call out Trump by name, he said the nation’s leaders had “a responsibility to speak out against hate,” the Shreveport Times reported. “The racism and hatred that we saw on display in Charlottesville violated those fundamental principles of our great nation,” Johnson said. “He also decried “the level of our public discourse,” saying that if the tone of the nation needed to change, “it ought to start with the nation’s leaders.”

What Johnson is saying about Charlottesville today: Nothing. 

Johnson has instead become one of the Congress’s most fervent promoters of the dangerous ideologies expressed at Charlottesville, repeatedly echoing the deadly and antisemitic “invasion” conspiracy theories cited by the racist killers who carried out terror attacks in El Paso, Buffalo, and at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

What top House Republican Elise Stefanik said about Charlottesville in 2017: “Hatred and bigotry have no place in our society,” Stefanik wrote in statements posted to Twitter and Facebook. “We stand united as Americans in condemnation of the violence in Charlottesville.” Stefanik’s spokesperson later said that she “believes that ideologies such as white supremacy are morally repugnant and have no place in our society.”

What Stefanik is saying about Charlottesville today: Nothing. 

Like Johnson, Stefanik has shamefully adopted the great replacement conspiracy theories she once condemned as “morally repugnant” to elevate her star within the GOP. Shortly after assuming leadership in the party, Stefanik ran Facebook ads peddling the “replacement” and “invasion” conspiracy theories that would later be cited by the racist mass gunman who carried out the Buffalo attack. Far from being chastened following the senseless killing of ten Black Americans, Stefanik instead doubled-down.

What Senator Mitch McConnell said about Charlottesville in 2017: “We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.” Following reports that white supremacists were planning to rally in his state, McConnell said that “messages of hate and bigotry are not welcome in Kentucky and should not be welcome anywhere in America.”

What McConnell is saying about Charlottesville today: Nothing.

What then-Florida Governor Rick Scott said about Charlottesville in 2017: “‘It is evil. There is no place in our country for racism or bigotry,’ the governor said, specifically noting neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan,” Politico reported. “‘There is no moral equivalency between the two sides.’ He also called the violence ‘disgusting’ and noted that Heather Heyer, the woman killed in the clashes, was his daughter’s age.”

What Scott is saying about Charlottesville today: Nothing. 

What Senator Ted Cruz said about Charlottesville in 2017: “The Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists who gathered there — they’re racists, they’re bigots, they’re idiots. And they’re spreading lies.” Cruz added that “it’s incumbent on all of us, every American, regardless of party — Republican, Democrat — regardless of who you are, to stand together and denounce those lies.”

What Cruz is saying about Charlottesville today: Nothing. 

What Senator Marco Rubio said about Charlottesville in 2017: “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”

What Rubio is saying about Charlottesville today: Nothing. 

What Senator Lindsey Graham said about Charlottesville in 2017: Like Johnson, Graham went further than most Republicans in his remarks and directly rebuked Trump for saying that there were “very fine people on both sides.” In his statement, Graham said Trump’s words were “dividing Americans, not healing them,” and that “President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer.  I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency. Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world.”

What Graham is saying about Charlottesville today: Nothing. 

“It’s bad enough that the leader of the Republican Party is again associating the party with the deadly white nationalism and antisemitism on display in Charlottesville and minimizing the murder that took place,” America’s Voice Senior Research Director Zachary Mueller said this week. “But unlike in 2017, no Republican voices are speaking out to denounce Trump’s latest comments. The GOP’s silence is reflective of the full-throated mainstreaming of deadly white nationalist and antisemitic conspiracy theories aimed at triggering white resentment, like ‘invasion’ and ‘replacement’ lies and conspiracies the Republicans now fully embrace.” 

Nor does this bode well should Trump return to office in January 2025 and seek to implement his mass purging of farmworkers, construction workers, caregivers, teachers, and millions of other immigrant workers. If they aren’t speaking out against something as unequivocally reprehensible as the downplaying of neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us,” they certainly won’t speak up when police and National Guard go door-to-door in their districts and states to round up immigrant families

“It’s not surprising that Donald Trump is again attempting to minimize the significance of white nationalism and Charlottesville, just as he did in 2017,” Mueller continued. “But it’s sure a telling reflection that he’s no longer an outlier in the Republican Party of 2024 and that no one in the House, Senate or right-wing media environment dares respond even when he crosses these many redlines.”

Not that any of them would care, but if these Republicans have forgotten what happened, any of them could watch the HBO documentary, “No Accident,” by Kristi Jacobson, which examines the lawsuit and trial brought against the white nationalist instigators in Charlottesville. As Attorneys Roberta Kaplan, Karen Dunn, and their colleagues proved, the goal was violence, and defendants were unabashed about their hatred. The New York Times review of the documentary stated, “it’s hard to keep calm at the spectacle of white nationalists preaching hatred and violence one moment, then attempting to squirm out of responsibility and court the jury’s sympathy.”  

What’s maddening – and dangerous – is that these white nationalists have the sympathy of the former President, and that doesn’t seem to bother his GOP colleagues anymore.