Trump claims deadly 2017 rally of white nationalists ‘was a little peanut’ compared to anti-Israel campus protests

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves State Supreme Court in New York, on Thursday, April 25, 2024, during his trial on charges of allegedly falsifying business records. (Jefferson Siegel/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump leaves State Supreme Court in New York, on Thursday, April 25, 2024, during his trial on charges of allegedly falsifying business records. (Jefferson Siegel/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Donald Trump claims the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was “nothing” compared to ongoing anti-Israel campus protests, the latest instance in which he has downplayed a racist incident that was one of the most criticized moments of his presidency.

Speaking in a Manhattan courtroom hallway at the day’s end of his criminal hush money trial, Trump blames US President Joe Biden for student protesters who have set up encampments as they call for a ceasefire in the war Israel launched after Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught.

Biden has recently, as he often does, publicly brought up the Charlottesville rally that sparked his decision to run against Trump in 2020, where torch-wielding white supremacists marched to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, chanting “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!”

“We’re having protests all over. He was talking about Charlottesville,” Trump says. “Charlottesville was a little peanut. And it was nothing compared — and the hate wasn’t the kind of hate that you have here.”

Trump has tried to pin reported instances of antisemitism around the campus protests to Biden. But in invoking Charlottesville, Trump again raised his history of courting extremists and his repeated refusal to disavow groups like the Proud Boys, some of whom would go on to participate in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Biden administration quickly condemned the comments. “Minimizing the antisemitic and white supremacist poison displayed in Charlottesville is repugnant and divisive,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates says.

Hundreds of white nationalists descended on the city on August 11 and August 12, 2017. Clashes between white nationalists and anti-racism protesters broke out both days, prompting authorities to declare the gathering on August 12 an “unlawful assembly” and to order crowds to disperse. It was after that announcement that a man rammed his car into a peaceful group of counter-protesters. One woman died; 35 others were injured.

Days after the deadly rally, Trump told reporters that “you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

The anti-Israel protests that have swept across college campuses in recent days come as tensions rise in the US over the nation’s role in the Israel-Hamas war, particularly as deaths mount in Gaza. Several hundred have been arrested thus far.

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