From the August 14 edition of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
ANDREA MITCHELL (HOST): According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently 917 active hate groups in the United States. Between 2015 and 2016, there was a 197 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate groups and a 23 percent increase in neo-Confederate groups. Joining me now is Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Sherrilyn, let's try to break this down. To what do you attribute what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend?
SHERRILYN IFILL: Well, obviously there were many causes for the violence that occurred there, but let's begin with how the foundation has been laid. You just had statistics up showing the increase in hate groups, and the increase in hate crimes has been well-documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, particularly since the campaign and since the election of this president. And we have not heard the president of the United States or the attorney general for that matter acknowledge the exponential increase in hate crimes that have been happening in this country, the increase in anti-Muslim violence, the bombings and the defacing of mosques that have been happening by the month. We had a veteran, a 25-year Army veteran, Ricky Best, who was killed in Portland along with another good Samaritan earlier this year trying to defend someone on the light rail killed by a white supremacist. The president has said nothing about this veteran having been killed. He said nothing about Richard Collins being killed in Maryland, someone who was in the ROTC at Bowie State, a commissioned second lieutenant in the Army, killed, a young man, 23 years old.
We've heard nothing from the president about any of these incidents. And so part of what has happened is there has been a silence about the issue of racial violence and hate crimes at the same time that the president himself, from the beginning of his campaign has set a context that has emboldened these groups. And if you look on social media, you hear David Duke who you just played, you listen to the other white supremacist leaders, they feel that President Trump is their leader. They feel that his statement that he made this weekend did not condemn them. They feel that he supports them. And if you look at what he did during the campaign, Andrea, you and the many members of the news media were there at those campaign events where he himself encouraged violence. “Knock him out.” “Get him out of here.” “I'll pay your fees if they arrest you.” “Remember what we used to do to people like that. We used to carry them out on stretchers.” Those were the words of Trump during the campaign. He has not disavowed that kind of language, and then his policies themselves -- from the Muslim ban, to the voter fraud commission, to the anti-LGBT position taken in the recent case in which the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief -- all of this, these are the policies and positions of the president. All of this has allowed these groups to feel that they are comfortable, that they are wanted, that they are not condemned at the highest levels of this country. And part of the reason that they were willing to go to Charlottesville and that they were willing to show their faces without shame as their forebearers did not have the courage to do, the reason they feel that way is because they feel they can act with impunity. And now is the time to show them that they cannot act with impunity. And the president's statement this weekend simply was not sufficient to give them certainly that view.
MITCHELL: Sherrilyn, when the president says, “on many sides, on many sides,” and he seemed to be ad libbing that phrase, what signal was he sending there? Because you had one group coming in, they were mostly out-of-towners as best we can tell. They were wearing uniforms. They had helmets. It's an open carry-state. They had weapons many of them. They were carrying Confederate flags and swastikas, many of them. So obviously you can't say what everyone in a crowd is doing, but that's certainly what was portrayed and certainly with the Friday night vigil as well.
IFILL: Andrea, I think that was a clear signal. You're right. It was clearly ad-libbed. It was meant to temper any sense of condemnation or specific identification of white supremacists. Any effort to compare Nazis to those who came because they believe in equality and justice like Heather Heyer, a paralegal -- not someone with any political agenda, but because she believes in what's right, because she was raised to believe in justice and equality. The clergymembers who were on their knees singing This Little Light of Mine. The people who came there to stand up for the America that we thought and hoped we lived in. I didn't know growing up in this country that there was another side to Nazis. I didn't know that there were many sides. I thought we were all on the same side in condemnation of Nazis. And so, when the president ad-libs that, he's sending a signal. His next statement, Andrea, you'll recall, was about little children coming out of their homes and not fearing anything, being able to be outside and, as he said, have a good time. This was his nod to talking about crime, I presume, in urban areas. These things are not equivalent. Violent crime is a problem, no question about it. Has nothing to do with what we saw yesterday, which was an affront to American values, to the American ideal. Was an affront to every person -- and should be -- every person who cherishes democracy and equality in this country and signals to African-Americans and Latinos and to members of the LGBTQ community who were under attack by this group as well and Muslim groups that we are not going to be protected, that the president is not prepared to say that he will not tolerate white supremacy. And the truth is, Andrea, even if he said it this weekend, it wouldn’t be believed unless it's followed by his policies. And so, the first thing that has to happen is we have to see the president and, by the way, the members of Congress, those who condemned the president, also taking steps by their actions, not just by their words, that they stand against this. You can't confirm a judicial nominee who was a blogger who cited to white nationalist sites and you vote for his confirmation, like many, 51 senators voted for John Bush just two weeks ago and then tweet that you stand against white supremacy. They now have to by their actions show that they intend to be leaders, the leaders that this country have a right to expect.