By EILEEN SULLIVAN
© 2017 New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — Under fire for defending racist activist groups, President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that he was “sad” to see United States’ history torn apart by the removal of “our beautiful statues and monuments,” echoing a popular refrain of white supremacist groups that oppose the removal of Confederate monuments.
Officials in several states have called for the removal of public monuments that have become symbols of the Confederacy.
The Twitter posts were the latest in his escalating remarks that critics contend validate white supremacist groups who led a bloody rally over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. The proposed removal of a statute of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park in Charlottesville spurred the demonstrations.
On Saturday, the day of the protests, Trump did not condemn neo-Nazis or white supremacists in his public remarks about the violence, prompting criticism that his omission suggested support for the racist groups. An Ohio man with white supremacist ties is accused of driving his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people.
Two days later, Trump bowed to pressure and said racism was “evil” and named racist organizations in his follow-up remarks about Charlottesville. But on Tuesday, Trump reverted to his initial public posture and blamed “both sides” for the violence.
On Thursday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., repeated his criticism of the president’s actions in a series of Twitter posts after Trump tweeted that Graham was “publicity seeking.”
“Because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation — as our President — please fix this,” Graham wrote on Twitter.