Republican president-elect Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during his election night event in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, 2016 in New York, N.Y.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

Team Trump offers vague rebuke to white-supremacist gathering

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/21/16, 9:01 PM ET

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Over the weekend, the National Policy Institute – a radical group with an anodyne name – held an event in D.C. that was more than a little alarming. As Rachel noted on the show last night, the white-supremacist gathering featured remarks from its leader, Richard Spencer, who not only argued that white people are intended to conquer, but also declared, “Hail Trump” and “Hail our people.”

He added that his movement has “a psychic connection, or you can say a deeper connection, with Donald Trump in a way that we simply do not have with most Republicans.”

And while delivering his speech, several of the radical attendees responded with Nazi salutes.

Obviously, for decent people, the display was gut-wrenching, as is the fact that Spencer and others are trying to add a professional/academic veneer to white nationalism. But what about the Republican president-elect these extremists were so eager to “hail”?

Donald Trump faced repeated calls yesterday to condemn the gathering, and by late yesterday afternoon, his spokesperson issued a statement on the matter.
“President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”
If you’re thinking this seems like a rather vague and hollow response given the circumstances, you’re not alone. Asked to condemn a specific event, led by specific extremists, who made specific remarks, Team Trump chose to denounce racism in general – saying literally nothing about Saturday’s gathering or the movement the radicals comprise.

MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin asked an excellent question last night: “Set aside politics or norms. If a bunch of racists are playacting Nazism in your name, isn’t the natural response to be personally furious?”

One would certainly like to think so. And yet, here we are.

Put it this way: Trump seems entirely comfortable blasting “Saturday Night Live” for telling jokes at his expense, and the president-elect could hardly contain his outrage at the cast of “Hamilton” for urging Mike Pence to honor American principles of inclusion.

But when alt-right activists spew racist garbage and make Nazi salutes at a gathering in the nation’s capital, Trump prefers to keep his concerns vague and generalized.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank added, “The scenes seemed as if from another time and another place, but in Donald Trump’s America, they are here and now. And if Trump doesn’t do something more forceful to disown his neo-Nazi hangers on, they will continue their brazen march into the mainstream.”

Donald Trump and Racism

Team Trump offers vague rebuke to white-supremacist gathering