Ryan Kelly of The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress, via AP

The layup untaken? Unforced error? Worst moment of his days as president?

However you look at it, President Trump's suggestion that "many sides" were responsible for the racist carnage in Charlottesville, Va., produced an instant backlash even from some top Republicans:

  • At 3:33 p.m., Trump said in televised remarks from his golf club in New Jersey: "[W]e're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides."
  • Then he added defensively: "It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time."
  • Former Vice President Biden had the most succinct reaction: "There is only one side. #charlottesville."
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who lost to Trump in the primaries, tweeted: "Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists."
  • Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee: "Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who wants to run again, called it a "grotesque act of domestic terrorism."
  • When NBC's Hallie Jackson asked what Trump meant by "many sides," a White House official replied: "The President was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters."

The N.Y. Times' Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman note in a story on p. A14 headlined, "Critics Slam Trump's Tepid Condemnation of Violence on 'Many Sides' in Virginia": "Trump is rarely reluctant to express his opinion, but he is often seized by caution when addressing the violence and vitriol of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right activists, some of whom are his supporters."

Be smart: Being a leader is taking your people where they don't want to go, or don't know they want to go. Being president is about rising to the occasion, not shrinking to your base. Large swaths of Trump's base don't think like this. The vast majority of conservative Americans aren't racists. Trump does them a disservice by creating that impression, and by coddling or fearing the few who resist loving one another.

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
Please enter a valid email.
Please enter a valid email.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Subscribed! Look for Axios AM and PM in your inbox tomorrow or read the latest Axios AM now.

Go deeper

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 33,137,748 — Total deaths: 998,372 — Total recoveries: 22,952,164Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8 a.m. ET: 7,116,456 — Total deaths: 204,762 — Total recoveries: 2,766,280 — Total tests: 101,298,794Map.
  3. States: 3 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week
  4. Health: The childless vaccine. The long-term pain of the mental health pandemic
  5. World: India the second country after U.S. to hit 6 million cases
Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
25 mins ago - Economy & Business

Big Tech's share of the S&P 500 reached record level in August

Expand chart
Reproduced from The Leuthold Group; Chart: Axios Visuals

The gap between the weighting of the five largest companies in the S&P 500 and the 300 smallest rose to the highest ever at the end of August, according to data from the Leuthold Group.

Why it matters: The concentration of wealth in a few massive U.S. tech companies has reached a scale significantly greater than it was before the dot-com bubble burst.

Fortune 100 companies commit $3.3 billion to fight racism and inequality

Data: Fortune 500, Axios analysis of company statements, get the data; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon, Naema Ahmed/Axios

Big businesses continue to push funding toward fighting inequality and racism, with the 100 largest U.S. companies' monetary commitments rising to $3.33 billion since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police earlier this year, according to an Axios analysis.

Why it matters: The continued pace of funding commitments shows that months after Floyd's death there remains pressure for the wealthiest corporations to put their money behind social issues and efforts.