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Trump's Latest Charlottesville Remarks Are Condemned Abroad

Trump's claim that "two sides" were to blame for the unrest in Charlottesville appears to have plunged his unpopularity abroad to a new nadir.
Image: Trump Speaks about Charlottesville
President Donald Trump speaks to the press about protests in Charlottesville after his statement on the infrastructure discussion in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

LONDON — President Donald Trump's claim that "two sides" were to blame for the unrest in Charlottesville appears to have further tarnished his reputation globally.

The foreign reaction has ranged from high-profile lawmakers calling Trump's remarks "trivializing" and "sickening," to one campaign group branding the president "the most high profile fascist-sympathizer of modern times."

This came after Trump held a combative press conference Tuesday in which he suggested the white nationalists and the demonstrators rallying against them in Charlottesville, Virginia, were both to blame for deadly violence that broke out over the weekend.

"I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story," he said, threatening to undo any goodwill built by his condemnation of neo-Nazi groups the previous day.

The rally in Charlottesville culminated with 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly plowing his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring 19 and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

At home, the backlash to Trump's latest remarks has been widespread, including by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Opinion has been no less scathing abroad.

The hashtag #ImpeachTrump was among the top worldwide Twitter trends early Wednesday, with people across the world using it to lodge their protest.

The hashtag was also used by some of Trump's defiant supporters.

The astonishment at the president's remarks has been particularly stark in Germany — where Nazi flags and salutes have been banned since the end of World War II.

"Trump's trivializing reaction to Charlottesville is unbearable," German justice minister Heiko Maas said in a tweet. "That was anti-Semitism and racism."

There was a similar reaction from the German fundraising group Hass Hilft, meaning "Hate Helps," which donates 1 euro to refugee projects for every racist and xenophobic comment it finds online.

"If you are a U.S. president, and a former Ku Klux Klan leader thanks you, then you definitely did everything wrong," the group said, referring to a tweet by former KKK leader David Duke.

Trude Simonsohn, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor living in Frankfurt, said Trump's words "will only encourage these [far-right] groups."

She added: "I am tired of listening to Donald Trump. I can't understand why Americans elected him."

In Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May had been criticized for saying Monday that while she condemned racism and the far-right, "what the president says is a matter for him."

But on Wednesday, following the president's latest press conference, leading members of her own party broke ranks to voice their displeasure.

Lilian Greenwood, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, called Trump's remarks "sickening" and "a new low" for the president.

Following these interjections, May herself weighed in. "I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them. I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views," May told reporters Wednesday.

The situation has also sparked renewed calls for the British prime minister to withdraw her invitation for Trump to come to the U.K. for a state visit.

"Theresa May’s decision to invite Donald Trump for a state visit to the U.K. has always been highly controversial," according to the London-based campaign group Global Justice Now. "But now that the president is nakedly sympathizing with neo-Nazis, there has never been a more obvious time that that invitation must be rescinded immediately."

In February, the British prime minister rejected a petition signed by 1.8 million people that called for Trump's proposed state visit to be scrapped because it would "cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan backed this campaign following Trump's widely criticized response to an attack in London. Trump remains invited but no official date has been set.

"Our politicians need to be sending clear messages that such hate and violent bigotry cannot be tolerated," the statement from Global Justice Now continued. "What message is it sending to the people of U.K. if there is an open invitation to the most high profile fascist-sympathizer of modern times?"

Just as Trump has been struggling with low job approval ratings at home, he is also deeply unpopular abroad.

A study by the Pew Research Center in June asked people across 37 nations whether they had confidence in the president to do the right thing on world affairs. Just 22 percent said they did, with that figure dipping far lower in countries across Europe and South America.

Alexander Smith reported from London, and Andy Eckardt and Carlo Angerer reported from Mainz, Germany.