Trump’s Charlottesville response not in line with majority of Americans, poll shows

HARI SREENIVASAN: But, first, back to the fallout from the president's comments on Charlottesville.

Political correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins me now to discuss how Republican lawmakers have reacted, and the new numbers from our latest NewsHour poll, done in collaboration with NPR and Marist College.

Now, these were done after the statement on Saturday.

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right.

This was a poll done Monday and Tuesday. And so some of this might include the president's latest reaction. Most of it is including his reactions from Saturday.

And here's what we found. We asked people what they thought about the president's response; 27 percent felt it was strong enough. But, Hari, a majority of Americans felt, 52 percent, not strong enough.

Now, that did break down across party lines. Republicans felt better about the president's response than did Democrats and independents, but on another question, there was universal agreement. The question was, should the fatal crash in Charlottesville be investigated as an act of domestic terrorism?

Sixty-seven percent of those polled answered yes. And that was the same across all parties. We saw that resonate. And what's interesting there, Hari, of course, is that the president has yet to say this should be investigated as domestic terrorism. He talks about Islamic terrorism, but here Americans seem to be raising a phrase that the president is not.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so the president may not be in line with the views in that question, but how are other Republican leaders handling this now?

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right. He's not the only major Republican leader.

We have seen, I think, one common response, and that is the one we have seen from House Speaker Paul Ryan and also Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

Let's look at what Mitch McConnell said in his response. He said: "There are no good neo-Nazis." He went on to say: "We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence whenever it raises its evil head."

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In other words, Hari, most Republicans are saying, we are against racism, we're against neo-Nazis. But they're not taking on the president by name. There are a few who have, however.

Let's look at a tweet from Senator Marco Rubio. He tweeted: "Mr. President, you can't allow white supremacists to share only part of the blame," of course, going after the president's idea that there is blame on all sides.

And then we have seen, even more, even fewer Republicans have said this on camera, because, of course, it's recess right now. But one is an interesting congressman, Will Hurd of Texas. He's in a swing district.

Let's listen to what he said on CNN.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: What would you say to the president, Congressman, right now?

REP. WILL HURD, R-Texas: Apologize, and that racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism of any form is unacceptable, and the leader of the free world should be unambiguous about that.

LISA DESJARDINS: So he said it should be unambiguous and that the president should apologize.

It's a range for Republicans, but, mostly, Hari, the truth is most of them are not addressing the president directly.

HARI SREENIVASAN: As you said, they're in recess right now. When they get back to business, what does this mean for them?

LISA DESJARDINS: I spent a lot of time making a lot of phone calls today. And the truth is, a lot of them don't know. They're not sure.

This September, Hari, is going to be one of the most difficult climbs for Republicans and mainly for any Congress. They have to pass a budget. They have to have a spending bill, keep government operating, and pass a debt ceiling increase. It's a lot for any Congress.

And, meanwhile, they also want to try and tackle tax reform. So what I hear from Republicans is that they're trying to focus ahead, and in coded words they say we are focusing on what we can do here in Congress. That means they're not expecting, they're not sure they can get help from this president at this point.

One person said the president has to be part of this process, we know that. But also multiple people said we would like less drama from the White House. It's as if they're driving into a storm right now with the president.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And when those members of Congress come back to the Capitol, the issues of monuments and statues doesn't go away.

LISA DESJARDINS: That's right.

They will hear it from their local constituents, but also it's in their daily lives, Hari. There are 10 statues in the U.S. Capitol of men who served in the Confederacy. Those are chosen by states. That's not something Congress controls alone, but it's something that members of Congress do see every day.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Lisa Desjardins, thanks so much.


The PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist Poll contacted 1,125 U.S. adults using landline and mobile phones between August 14 and August 15. There is a 2.9 percent margin of error.

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