The “Charlottesville Lie” Lie

Steve Cortes

You may have noticed that shortly after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton (not Toledo), the hashtag #thecharlottesvillelie was trending heavily. It’s not just by chance. In the wake of the El Paso massacre, there was a great deal of finger pointing at the incendiary, racist rhetoric of the Forty-Fifth White House Occupant and his enablers. Which brought to mind his comment after the Charlottesville murder of Heather Heyer about some of the neo-Nazis being “very fine people”.

In attempting to defend this indefensible character, the MAGA cultists insisted that he didn’t really say what he said. Good old PragerU even pumped up its video called The Charlottesville Lie; hence the phrase went viral, and millions of gullible Americans started insisting that the “fake news” media once again tried to tar and feather the reputation of a spotless leader with their falsehoods. Overnight, this audaciously revisionist narrative became indisputable gospel among true believers.

When I addressed it on Twitter, I received a flurry of personal attacks and insults from them. (Did you know that if you accurately report what the White House Occupant says, you’re a “bitter, lying liberal” and a “horrible, disgusting human being” who is “trying to destroy this nation”? Well now you do.) Several of them advised me to stop falling for lies and “start thinking for yourself”. The most polite of them just demanded that I apologize for taking their president’s words at face value because that sort of thing “divides our country”. Astoundingly, however, none of them suggested that I’m secretly funded by George Soros.

Meister Prager himself even went on a tear at RealClearPolitics bemoaning the mendacity of the “Dem media” (and sneaking in an extra whine about how Google is supposedly discriminating against him), in which he proclaimed:

This is one of the two great lies of our time — the other being that all [45] supporters are racists — and perhaps in all of American history.

Got that? One of the biggest lies in all of American history. Oh, and don’t forget that the W.H.O. is the most unfairly treated person in the history of the world. And windmills cause cancer. Prager also adds that:

Meanwhile, half a day later, there was another mass shooting at a popular nightspot in Dayton, Ohio, resulting in nine deaths, including the shooter’s sister. Not much political hay against the president is being made of that one because, according to early reports, the shooter was a leftist, antifa-supporting Democrat who said he’d be happy to vote for Elizabeth Warren.

It would be difficult to imagine a statement that better illustrates the effects of snorting Kool-Aid inside the bubble of white male privilege. First of all, it isn’t exactly true that there’s no reason to “make political hay against the president” on the basis of Dayton. The killer there also had easy access to the guns that Republicans have been doing their best to saturate the country with along with their hateful rhetoric. But more important, Prager seems totally clueless that there are major differences between the two incidents. The shooter in Ohio left no manifesto, and had no known motive, much less a politically motivated one. And neither Elizabeth Warren nor any other Democrat has constantly stoked toxic, dishonest hysteria about an “invasion” of brown-skinned foreigners or anyone else.

In the PragerU video, the talking head is on loan from CNN, which of course has led many Prager cultists to comment that, hey, if even the hard-left CNN says it, it must really be true. Except, of course, that CNN is not leftist at all — it’s very much in the center, which is why right-wing extremists try to brand it as leftist in an effort to shift the goalposts. But we’ve discussed that before.  And we’ve also mentioned that the network has employed several shills for the White House Occupant, including the one in this video.

If you don’t want to waste 5 minutes of your life watching the video, what it says in essence is this: the W.H.O. couldn’t possibly have been referring to Nazis when he said “very fine people”, because he said he didn’t mean Nazis, and he claimed he’d condemned Nazis, and he went through the perfunctory soundbites about hate having no place in America, etc. (even though he constantly spews it out himself). Apparently the Pragerists are unfamiliar with the concepts of backpedaling, equivocation and spin. They also apparently didn’t notice that one year later, their beloved leader referred to a group called Bikers For T—p, some of whom sported Nazi tattoos and emblems, as “great people who truly love our country”.

And if we really want to know what the W.H.O. actually said, it’s not hard to find out. There’s video of the remarks in question. And here, courtesy of Politifact, is a transcript of the relevant section. (Emphasis added, and a name has been changed — most certainly not to protect the innocent.)

Reporter: “Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?”

45: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs — and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch.

“But there is another side. There was a group on this side. You can call them the left — you just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.

Reporter: (Inaudible) “… both sides, sir. You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the –”

45: “Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either. And if you reported it accurately, you would say.”

Reporter: “The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest –”

45: “Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

So there you have it.  And bear in mind that this was after he’d already delayed for a couple of days in denouncing the actions of the Nazis other than to say that there was blame “on many sides” . And he clearly said “that group” (the white supremacists and what he calls the “alt-left”, of which there is no such thing) both had some “very bad people” and some “very fine people”. If anyone cares, he also flatly lied by saying that the “alt-left” violently attacked, and that there was “blame on both sides”. He was indulging in blatant bothsidesism in order to downplay the fact that the Nazis initiated physical altercations and even came there with the intention of doing so. Whatever else he may have said to buffer his “very fine people” label, he clearly had the Nazis’ back.

His defenders, like the Pragerists, are stressing “context”; but what they’re really emphasizing is his damage control after the fact — insisting that he didn’t mean what he said. They point to the fact that he later insisted (in reference to something else) “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally”. Evidently, that’s supposed to totally wipe out the fact that he was talking about neo-Nazis and white nationalists; heaven knows, he’d never lie, would he? They claim (as does he) that the “very fine people” was a reference to an assemblage of peaceful souls who were there just to protest the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. But there’s no evidence such a benevolent group existed. The best anyone can come up with is a New York Times article quoting one woman who claimed she was a peacemaker. In reality, she was a member of a militant and inflammatory alt-right “militia” group.

The White House Occupant’s actual meaning (even if you believe it was unintentional) is determined by what went just before the phrase in question. And that, as you can see above, was a discussion of the clash between white supremacists and the “leftists”. (Nor is that changed by pointing out how many groups and sub-groups may have been there.) That’s what he said, captured on video for eternity. And no amount of backpedaling, spin, gaslighting, revision or blatant lying can make it go away.

Furthermore, he said of his “very fine people”:

But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest — because, I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.

The permit he was talking about was for the Unite The Right rally, which was organized by several white supremacist organizations. They publicized it well in advance, and made it very clear what they stood for. They also made it very clear that they were anything but “very fine people”. He also waxes lyrical over another gathering that had taken place the night before:

There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before — if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

The people who came the night before with their tiki torches were also very clearly white supremacists. (Hint, Don: look for swastikas and Confederate flags.)

This may seem like a lot of time and space to expend upon a single outrage from an individual who has bequeathed us so very, very many outrages. But this is an especially significant one. It’s disturbing enough that a putative president of the United States should make an effort to exculpate and normalize neo-Nazis. It’s doubly disturbing that the powerful right-wing media cartel should bend over backward and tie itself in knots in an effort to exculpate and normalize him.

 

2 comments

  1. At the least, many right wing Trump believers are unaware that he and they, are entertaining racist views. Its true that they love to make those claims about the left, but if not outright fascists, they are truly unaware of the white privileges Americans of caucasian descent, enjoy. But whether or not this fact is accepted by them, you would think that eventually they would have to wonder why so many of Trump’s supporters are Mexican haters, Muslim haters, or African American haters, and appeal to white supremacists–they either don’t admit, or are not aware of the fact that these kinds of approvals–coming from extreme right groups–are something that needs to be taken very seriously. No one wants to read the writing on the wall it it hits too close to home! However, at the best, we can be fairly sure that Trump’s base is gullible and somewhat morally ignorant. They may not want to admit this, but people are often judged by the company they seek. So when so many extreme hate groups agree with Republican talking points, conservatives had better realize the negative effects that our leaders can have on shaping public opinions–whether they are true or not, and whether they admit that or not!

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