Donald Trump on April 25 claimed the fatal 2017 White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was “nothing” compared to ongoing pro-Palestinian campus protests. It was his latest burst of rhetoric designed to minimize a bloody and racist incident that was one of the most criticized moments of his corrupt presidency.

Speaking in a Manhattan courtroom hallway at the end of his criminal conspiracy and a cover-up trial involving “hush money” payments, Trump spouted accusations against federal authorities. He criticized the Biden Administration – at his criminal trial – for allowing student protesters to set up encampments as they call for a cease-fire in the war Israel launched after the October 7 attack by Hamas.

President 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 General 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 said. “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 President Biden, even though his MAGA faction of the Republican Party has promoted antisemitism.

By invoking Charlottesville, Trump again raised his history of courting extremists and his repeated refusal to disavow groups like the Proud Boys, some of whom went on to participate in the violent attack and insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The Biden administration quickly condemned Trump’s false statements.

“Minimizing the antisemitic and White Supremacist poison displayed in Charlottesville is repugnant and divisive,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said.

Hundreds of White Nationalists descended on the city on August 11 and 12 in 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 premeditatedly rammed his car into a peaceful group of counter-protesters. One young woman died and 35 others were seriously 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.”

It was, as President Biden has said, when he knew he would run for president again. He talks about the moment often, including at a recent campaign event.

“When those folks came walking out of those fields — down in Charlottesville, Virginia — carrying Nazi banners, singing the same garbage that they sang in Hitler’s streets in Germany in the ’30s, carrying torches, accompanied by the Ku Klux Klan, and a young woman was killed, I decided that I had to run. I had to run,” he said. “Our democracy is at stake, and it really is.”

The protests that have swept across college campuses in recent days come as tensions rise in the U.S. over the nation’s role in the Israel-Hamas war, particularly as civilian deaths mount in Gaza. More than 34,000 Palestinians – mostly women and children – have been killed in the unrestrained Israeli offensive driven by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protests have pitted students against one another, with pro-Palestinian students demanding that their schools condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel.

Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel has made them feel unsafe, while other Jewish students have participated in the pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

More than 100 people have been arrested in the protests. President Biden has tried to navigate it politically, saying students have a right to free speech while condemning antisemitic protests.

Colleen Long and MI Staff

Associated Press


Yuki Iwamura (AP) and Jeenah Moon (AP)