White House calls Trump’s Charlottesville ‘peanut’ comments ‘repugnant and divisive’

The White House on Thursday blasted former President Trump after he twice minimized the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., downplaying its severity compared to ongoing campus protests over the war in Gaza.

“Minimizing the Antisemitic and white supremacist poison displayed in Charlottesville is repugnant and divisive,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Bates noted the Charlottesville rally “compelled President Biden to run in 2020, because he has fought Antisemitism and hate his entire life.” He also pointed to the Biden administration’s launch of a national strategy to counter antisemitism.

“And unlike some figures on the right, President Biden has never invited Neo Nazis and Holocaust deniers over for lunch,” Bates added, a reference to Trump’s meeting in 2022 with Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.

Trump twice on Thursday downplayed the Charlottesville rally, which was a major flashpoint early in his first term.

“Charlottesville is like a ‘peanut’ compared to the riots and anti-Israel protests that are happening all over our Country, RIGHT NOW,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Later in the day, as he departed the courtroom in Manhattan where his hush money trial is taking place, Trump again ripped Biden’s handling of the ongoing campus protests while minimizing the Charlottesville violence.

“Very importantly as you look at the various colleges all over the country … you see what’s happening on the fronts having to do with Palestine and Israel and protests and hate, anger,” Trump said. “Biden is sending an absolutely horrible message. Horrible, horrible message. He has no idea how to message. He can’t speak. He can’t put two sentences together. He doesn’t know what to do.”

“He was talking about Charlottesville. Charlottesville was a little peanut — and it was nothing compared — and the hate wasn’t the kind of hate you have here,” Trump added.

The August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville served as a major moment early in Trump’s first term as white supremacists, who had chanted antisemitic slogans and marched with tiki torches on the first night of the rally, clashed with counter-protesters.

Heather Heyer, a counter-protester, was killed after James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd.

Biden frequently references the Charlottesville violence as a major motivator for his decision to run for the White House in 2020, and he often cites Trump’s response to the event, in which the then-president said there was blame on “both sides,” as well as “very fine people on both sides.”

Trump’s comments Thursday came as college campus protests over the war between Israel and Hamas, which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, have garnered nationwide attention. Lawmakers have traveled to Columbia University in New York City, where demonstrations on campus have sparked criticism for some antisemitic elements.

Biden has condemned antisemitism in the protests, but he also has condemned those who “don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

The president has for months sought to walk a careful line, publicly vowing support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas after last October’s attack by the militant group killed more than 1,100 Israelis, while simultaneously pushing Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza.

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