That post on Twitter about 10:30 a.m. came amid building criticism, including from Republicans, that he had not spoken out against the clashes.
Many critics on social media noted that Trump also has not condemned the bombing of a Minnesota mosque a week ago, though he has been quick to tweet against violence by Muslims in foreign nations.
The president’s failure to mention Charlottesville specifically in his tweet invited further criticism, since other Republicans — including his wife, Melania, nearly an hour before him — had done so. She used the hashtag #Charlottesville that was being used on Twitter by those witnessing and following the violence near the University of Virginia.
A bit more than an hour later, Trump tweeted a second time, specifically mentioning Charlottesville, but not condemning the violence or naming the groups involved in it.
The president’s vagueness stood in contrast to his frequent contention, echoing many on the right, that “radical Islamic terrorism” cannot be defeated if political leaders are not willing to specifically call it that.
Later in the afternoon, Trump addressed the violence in Charlottesville from his golf club in New Jersey, saying that blame belongs “on many sides.” That came just after authorities confirmed that at least one person had died in an attack earlier in the day by a car.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said.
“What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives,” he added.
Trump’s appearance had been previously scheduled to highlight his work for veterans and on the economy. The president mostly dealt with those topics during the event, which lasted just over 10 minutes. After a short statement on Charlottesville, he talked about the economy and greeted assembled veterans, before leaving without answering shouted questions from reporters.
Among the questions he ignored Saturday was, “Do you want the support of these white nationalists?” Another asked whether the violence should be considered terrorism.
Trump’s unresponsiveness contrasted with his volubility in the past two days, when in three separate appearances before reporters he took numerous questions on subjects including North Korea. He did so with apparent enjoyment, compared to his evident discomfiture on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, former Klan leader David Duke had hailed the protests as “a turning point” that realized the promise of Trump’s election.
Duke subsequently criticized Trump’s tweets, despite their failure to single out the white supremacists in Charlottesville.
The president should remember that “white Americans” put him in the White House, Duke wrote.