The heated debate over the weekend about whether President Trump was enabling white supremacist groups revealed the mainstream media's eagerness to label him a racist. Yes, Trump should have more unambiguously spurned racists who invoked his name as inspiration for their violence, but the mainstream media's coverage and Trump haters' reaction also showed the knee-jerk, decrepit nature of this country's discussion on race.
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
When it was confirmed that a female counter-protester died and more than a dozen were injured, Trump said on Sunday, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."
In turn, pundits and politicians alike lambasted Trump's failure to explicitly name white supremacists in his condemnation.
On CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday, anchor Jake Tapper asked if Trump was sending a dog whistle to the white supremacists who supported him. To bolster his point, Tapper repeatedly pointed to his interview with Trump in February 2016 where Trump did not explicitly disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Nowhere did Tapper point out that two days before his interview with Trump, the presidential candidate was asked at a press conference about Duke's endorsement and unequivocally declared, "I disavow."
After his interview with Tapper, Trump reiterated his rejection of Duke's support on Twitter. Tapper said nothing about that either.
Tapper and his colleagues at CNN complain incessantly that the President refers to the network as #FakeNews, but they exhibit precisely the kind of bias that makes Trump's branding exercise effective.
Trump haters, including many in the mainstream media, are always in a mad hurry to conclude that the president is shilling for or coddling white supremacists. "These are the people who got Trump elected," they tell themselves. The "alt-right," which for Trump haters is synonymous with racism and bigotry, has now become a group they despise even more than the politically-incorrect "white male."
For long-time conservatives who support Trump, they have good reason to ask, as Fox News anchor Sean Hannity did: Who the hell are these people on the alt-right? How come we had never heard of them until the Left kept bringing them up to malign Trump during the 2016 election?
Breitbart, the publication that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon proudly declared as the home of the alt-right, provided a helpful guide to the alt-right last year. The authors noted that while a small extremist minority of racists does exist within the movement (the kinds of people who were in Charlottesville this weekend) the media prefers to pretend that this minority constitutes the whole.
As such, TV anchors such as Tapper never fail to invoke the "alt-right" when insinuating that Trump is promoting hate and encouraging racists. Tapper did so again this weekend when discussing the violence in Charlottesville. Repeatedly, he and his guests condemned the president for criticizing egregious hatred displayed by "many sides" rather than honing in on neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Yet, violence came from not just white racists. Counter-protesters, including extremist groups from the Left, showed up in Charlottesville prepared to engage in violence, and did. Peaceful tree-huggers they were not.
Certainly, the racism exhibited by white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville is especially vile and needs to be condemned, and the violence to which they resort must be suppressed and punished.
In the age of Trump, however, leftist extremists have staged mass violence on Inauguration Day, at the University of California at Berkeley against prominent conservative speakers, and elsewhere across the country. Hating the other person's point of view is sufficient justification for their violence. Certainly, the hate of the Ku Klux Klan is not the same as the idiocy and hooliganism of the violent Left, but the president was right: hate and violence does come from many sides.
Alas, for the mainstream media and Republicans who are always sensitive to accusations of racism, they freak out whenever Trump does not use the words or rhetoric they like.
Trump's calls for building the wall and reducing legal and illegal immigration have become racial epithets against Hispanics. His insistence on defeating radical Islamic terrorism and safeguarding the U.S. homeland from infiltration by Islamic State fighters posing as Syrian refugees has made him an Islamophobe. His over-the-top criticisms of women have earned him the label of sexism and misogyny, even though his attacks on men have never been especially tempered.
Trump may have, with great effect and fanfare, branded CNN and the mainstream media as #FakeNews. The media and the Left's political correctness, however, have succeeded to typecast him as a racist until proven otherwise.
So, to prove otherwise, the White House on Sunday issued a clarification to Trump's comments on Charlottesville: The president "condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."
As president, Trump has the responsibility to delineate, clarify, and unite in a time of crisis, whether he is being treated or perceived fairly or not. The White House's clarification was the right one to make, and Monday afternoon, Trump himself explicitly condemned white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and racists in general.
In the end, the Trump White House, after a few tries, got it right. When it comes to race-related issues, will Trump haters or the mainstream media ever do the same?
Ying Ma is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a senior adviser at Avenue Strategies, the former deputy director of a pro-Trump super PAC, and the former deputy policy director of the Ben Carson presidential campaign. She is the author of "Chinese Girl in the Ghetto."