Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Republicans Reluctant to Blame Trump for Remarks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Republicans Reluctant to Blame Trump for Remarks

Article excerpt

Byline: Tia Mitchell

Gov. Rick Scott isn't big on spending time with the Press Corps, but we know he will take a few questions immediately after Cabinet meetings. So we gathered around him on Wednesday to ask what he thinks about how President Donald Trump reacted to violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Scott was unequivocal that he personally placed blame on white supremacists and related groups for the violence that resulted in the death of 32-year Heather Heyer.

"It's evil," he said. "There is no place in our country for racism, bigotry, the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists. There is no moral equivalency to the two sides."

At the same time, the governor would not condemn Trump for saying "many sides" had contributed to the unrest and carnage.

"You can ask President Trump what he said," was Scott's reply when reporters asked him more than once if he agreed with what Trump has said.

It just so happened that Scott had lunch with the president at a Trump golf resort in New Jersey the very next day. His office said the invitation from Trump was sent prior prior to the events in Virginia and Scott accepted with hopes of promoting Florida.

Scott's spokesman later said the men talked about the Barcelona van attack and how to keep America safe. If they talked about Charlottesville at all, Scott's office didn't admit it publicly.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, one of Trump's highest-profile surrogates from Florida, also didn't speak directly to Trump's words after the Cabinet meeting. Bondi, like Scott, criticized white supremacy groups. She pointed out that her office successfully prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan who plotted to murder a black inmate.

"Everyone needs to come out with the strongest statements possible against the hatred in this country right now," she said.

So what about Trump, who on Tuesday blamed the violence on white nationalists and those who marched against them? Bondi said she hadn't watched his press conference and wasn't sure what Trump said. She also gave him a pass for his initial, also-panned statements on Saturday because they may have come before he received full details. …

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