“Wow, that was something else,” Jake Tapper said on CNN after President Donald Trump finished speaking to the press about Charlottesville Tuesday afternoon.
For the next hour, Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, and a wide-ranging panel of contributors and guests systematically broke down everything that was wrong with the president’s refusal to differentiate between neo-Nazis and those who were protesting against them, a complete reversal of the written statement he delivered one day earlier.
But it was perhaps CNN’s own Don Lemon who delivered the strongest rebuke of Trump’s latest comments.
“It is hard to imagine if that domestic terrorist action had been committed by somebody who was, instead of a white supremacist terrorist, a Muslim terrorist,” Tapper said, “it is impossible to imagine President Trump saying that both sides are responsible for the violence, saying that the people that came out against these extremists are equally to blame.”
“This was a president that has lost touch with the country he represents, it's that simple,” CNN political director David Chalian added.
“It wasn't crazy to hope that Trump might [change his stripes] during the transition and the beginning of his presidency. I think it is getting a little crazy to hope for that at this point,” conservative pundit Bill Kristol remarked.
“This is a country that is grappling on what it means that we have a president who doesn't seem to think that his first instinct should be what everyone’s instinct is, which is to really denounce neo-Nazis and to say that he doesn't want that support,” Nia-Malika Henderson said.
And then it was Lemon’s turn.
“This is a sad moment for the country,” Lemon said. “I think it was an awful moment for the person who is supposed to represent the highest office of the land. There, today, you saw the real Donald Trump proving all of his critics right in that moment.”
“There is a difference between the two groups,” Lemon added. “One is a Nazi, white supremacist group. What they want to do is extinguish people that look like me and you, Wolf, Jewish people, black people, even women. They don't think we are equal to them. The other is a protest group, protesting a political and racist movement.”
Lemon said Trump “doesn't seem to be very aware of the history of this country,” reminding the president that these problems began with slavery. “People who look like me did not come over on the Nina, the Pinta, or the Santa Maria. And those people who were there want to keep people like me enslaved.”
“The president is ignorant of history,” Lemon declared. “He does not know context. He should be ashamed of himself. He should go back to school and get an elementary education on how this country started and about protest groups and how this country works and who he represents and who he should represent.”