President Trump received bipartisan criticism for comments he made on Tuesday blaming “both sides” for violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, where a white nationalist protester drove a car through a group of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” the president said on Tuesday, seemingly backtracking on earlier comments in which he laid the blame on white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the KKK. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”
In New Jersey, bipartisan outrage has erupted over Trump’s comments with both Republicans and Democrats saying that the president should more directly denounce the KKK, neo-Nazi and white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville.
Here is how New Jersey’s congressional delegation reacted to Trump’s Tuesday comments:
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7)
On Twitter, Lance forcefully reacted to Trump’s Tuesday statements.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D)
Menendez said that Trump’s words were “sickening” and that the president “defended” those “attending a white supremacist rally” where neo-Nazis and KKK members were present.
U.S. Sen Cory Booker (D)
In a series of tweets and Facebook posts on Tuesday, New Jersey’s junior senator said he was “outraged and disgusted” by Trump’s comments blaming both sides for the violence.
Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1)
On Twitter, Norcross questioned Trump’s choice to say that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the Charlottesville rally. He said that the president’s statement was “unbelievable.”
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2)
LoBiondo did not specifically react to Trump’s Tuesday press conference but the representative said that “combating hate must be non-partisan effort to succeed,” following last weekend’s events.
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3)
After a Tuesday night town hall event, MacArthur was asked about Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville events and said he was not up to speed.
“I did not see the press conference,” MacArthur said. “I can say with regard to the overall issues down there that I think racism and bigotry is despicable and I despise that ideology. I have adopted two of my three children and they are both minorities. And I think for some people to think they are better than others, I don’t know where they come off with that view.”
MacArthur added that there is “too much political gamesmanship going on.” He said he was not interested in “critiquing every last comment that the president makes.”
On Wednesday, MacArthur followed up with a tweet saying he “does not believe that good people hold racist beliefs.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-4)
Following the weekend’s events, Smith said: “The violence triggered by the deplorable white nationalist rally is outrageous.” He did not comment publicly following Trump’s Tuesday comments.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5)
On Tuesday evening, Gottheimer attended a Charlottesville vigil in Glen Rock. During his remarks, Gottheimer said he had an emotional conversation with his two children about Charlottesville.
“What I have seen in the last few days is not what our country is about,” he said. “We will stand up to those who preach hate. We will stand up to those who teach intolerance. And we will look at our children and teach love.”
On Twitter, he alluded to Trump’s statements and said that “there’s no room for relativism when it comes to condemning the KKK and Nazis.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6)
After the Tuesday town hall event with MacArthur, Pallone also spoke to the press about Trump’s remarks.
“I really question the president’s competence on this and so many other issues,” Pallone said. “It just galls me to think that he is unwilling to continually and repeatedly condemn these white supremacist KKK and neo-Nazi groups. They are not equal.”
Rep. Albio Sires (D-8)
Sires said Trump was “abandoning his role as leader of the free world.”
“When you embolden hate groups you tear down democracy,” he said in a Tuesday Twitter post.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9)
In an appearance on Bloomberg, Pascrell said that Trump’s comments were an “embarrassment.”
“It is diversity they don’t want and everybody has got to be the same,” Pascrell said. “It is not different from what Hitler talked about in the ’30s.”
Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-10)
Payne has been a vocal opponent of Trump since he was elected. He took to Twitter to express his disapproval of Trump’s comments.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11)
In a Tuesday statement, Frelinghuysen said there is “no comparison between those on the side of bigotry and hate, and those who manned the barriers to protest them.” He said the “hatred and violence” must be condemned.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12)
In a series of tweets, Watson Coleman said that Trump “squanders every opportunity to show and prove he is the president for all Americans.”
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth)
“Despite what President Trump says, there are no ‘very fine’ Nazis or members of the KKK,” said Beck in a statement. “It’s outrageous that the President of the United States thinks it’s appropriate to morally equate those who want to celebrate and promote racism and slavery with those who are standing up to defend freedom, justice, and equality. I condemn President Trump’s comments in the strongest possible terms and call on him to apologize and retract his statement.”
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen)