WASHINGTON — Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez sent a letter Wednesday night to the head of the Republican National Committee — as it grapples with President Trump’s controversial response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va.
“The leader of your Republican Party, President Trump, responded first with silence, then with begrudging condemnation, and most recently with words that embolden white supremacy,” Perez wrote in the letter to RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel.
The letter arrived a day after Trump’s Manhattan news conference in which he compared Americans protesting Nazis to the “Unite the Right” crowds who marched with torches chanting Nazi slogans to protest the dismantling of a confederate monument of General Robert E. Lee.
“He tore open the scars of history while creating a dangerous false equivalency between those upholding racism and those fighting to defeat it,” said Perez.
“There is no denying that these white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan have made their home in this president’s Republican Party. As chairwoman, you bear a responsibility not just to reject hateful ideology generally, but to hold accountable the individuals in your party who have allowed that ideology to flourish,” said Perez.
“You bear a responsibility to stop Donald Trump,” he said. The RNC declined to comment on the letter that arrived via e-mail.
The Republican Party is struggling with its response to Trump’s news conference in which said there is “blame on both sides” for violence that erupted in Charlottesville. Former KKK grand wizard David Duke thanked him for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth.”
The RNC's varied responses demonstrate the chasm in the Republican Party over how to handle an issue that threatens to both inflame race relations in the nation and tar the entire party as hostile to minorities. While newly minted spokeswoman Kaleigh McEnany took to Twitter Tuesday night to praise Trump’s comments as a “message of love and inclusiveness,” Romney McDaniel directly rejected Trump’s comparing the neo-Nazi protesters to counter protesters, without mentioning him by name.
In a Wednesday appearance on ABC's Good Morning America, Romney McDaniel said in Charlottesville “the blame lays squarely on the KKK and white supremacists.” McDaniel had been in Michigan trying to reach out to African-American voters 48 hours after the deadly rioting in Charlottesville.
During a roundtable in Detroit, she previously denounced the violence, saying “it’s unacceptable” and “not welcome” in the Republican Party.
Few Republicans, with the exception of those like Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, have called out the president by name. For Perez, and other Democrats who see Trump’s popularity among white supremacists, including Duke, as damning, that creates a political opening.
“Madam Chairwoman, the white hoods are gone. They march in torchlight now, unafraid to show their faces. They see the president as their leader and fiercest defender,” said Perez.
“Will history remember your party as one that surrendered to a man who empowered neo-Nazis? Will history remember you as the chair who allowed white supremacy to spread with your party’s blessing?” he said.
“It’s time for both of our parties to unite against these white supremacists and all of their enablers — including the president of the United States. Will you join us on the right side of history?”