US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Wednesday appeared to critique US President Donald Trump’s response to the racially motivated violence in Charlottesville earlier this month.
Friedman, speaking to a Channel 10 reporter at a Ben Gurion Airport welcome ceremony for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft purchased by El Al, said he thought the US president had been “treated very unfairly in the media” and that “people should really give him a chance.”
But asked if he thought Trump’s handling of the aftermath of the white supremacist rally was “fine,” Friedman replied: “I think the reaction wasn’t fine, but, you know, I’d rather talk about Boeing today.”
He added that the sentiments expressed at the far-right rally “do not reflect who he is or what the US administration is.”
— נדב איל Nadav Eyal (@NadavEyalDesk) August 23, 2017
On August 11 and 12, a throng of hundreds, many carrying guns, converged on Charlottesville, Virginia, yelling anti-Semitic and racist slurs and carrying Confederate flags and neo-Nazi and KKK signs. Several street fights broke out between the demonstrators and counter-protesters, and a woman was killed and others injured when one of the white supremacist protesters drove a car into people marching against the rally.
Trump’s first response was to say “many sides” were at fault, while pointedly declining to even mention the racist hate groups that had organized the rally. Two days later, he called out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, who played an outsized role in the demonstration, by name.
Days later, however, Trump doubled down on his original assessment allocating equal blame to “both sides” and saying there were “very fine people” among the right-wing protesters.
The US president’s equation of extremist hate groups and left-wing demonstrators drew condemnation from across the American political spectrum, including from many in his own Republican Party, and garnered harsh responses from several prominent Jewish organizations.