WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump yesterday bowed to overwhelming pressure that he personally condemn white supremacists who incited bloody demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend - labelling their racist views "evil" after two days of equivocal statements.
"Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans," Mr Trump said from the White House.
"We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our Creator. We are equal under the law. And we are equal under the Constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America," he added.
Asserting that racism "has no place in America", Mr Trump had a warning for anyone who acted criminally in the weekend's racist violence: "You will be held full accountable. Justice will be delivered."
Mr Trump's unscheduled briefing came after he met FBI director Chris Wray and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions about the violence on Saturday.
The clashes left one woman dead after a car ploughed into a group of counter-protesters. The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr, was described by one of his former teachers as a sympathiser of Nazi views.
But Mr Trump began his address by boasting about trade deals and a growing economy two days after being criticised for not condemning white nationalism in his initial comments on the Charlottesville violence.
He said the woman killed in the vehicle attack and two policemen killed in a separate helicopter crash "embody the goodness and decency of our nation".
"In times such as these, America has always shown its true character - responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice," Mr Trump said.
Earlier yesterday, Merck & Co chief executive Kenneth Frasier resigned from Mr Trump's American Manufacturing Council, saying he was taking a stand against intolerance and extremism. He is one of just a handful of black chief executives from Fortune 500 companies.
Less than an hour later, Mr Trump responded on social media. "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to lower ripoff drug prices!" he wrote on Twitter.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday slammed as "disgusting" the role of white supremacists in the violent protest in Virginia and the "evil attack" on counter-demonstrators, her spokesman said.
"The scenes at the right-wing extremist march were absolutely repulsive - naked racism, anti- Semitism and hate in their most evil form were on display," Dr Merkel's spokesman added.
"Such images and chants are disgusting wherever they may be and they are diametrically opposed to the political goals of the Chancellor and the entire German government." Dr Merkel stood in solidarity "with those who peacefully oppose such aggressive, far-right views".
NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE