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Local pols react to Trump comments

By Staff | Aug 25, 2017

Following Donald Trump’s comments regarding the recent violence in Charlottes-ville that resulted in the death of one woman and injuries to 20 others, local lawmakers expressed their points of view.

While they condemned the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, they had mixed views on what the president said, with none absolutely renouncing Trump or his words.

U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19) expressed in a statement his denouncement of white supremacy, adding those on the other side weren’t innocent, either.

“It is time for Americans to come together in a spirit of healing and national unity. We cannot allow hate, intolerance and bigotry to further divide us, or pit neighbor against neighbor. In addition to clearly condemning white supremacists, Antifa, New Black Panthers and the like that exist solely to promote hate, we must say ‘enough is enough.’ These fringe groups do not represent American values and do not represent me,” Rooney said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-17), who spoke after an event at the Citrus Expo at the Lee Civic Center last Wednesday, talked about how he would have to tell his children about this hatred.

“I let the president speak for himself. What we’ve seen over the last few years culminating in Charlottesville has been disappointing, in that there are still a lot of ignorant people that would do the things they do,” he said. “It’s surprising to see in my generation this is still happening out there. As a father of young children, I have to explain to them what those groups are and what it means and what true hatred looks like. I didn’t think I’d have to do that.”

State Rep. Dane Eagle said he still supports the president, and that maybe he didn’t clearly construct his sentences well when he spoke at Trump Tower.

“There’s no room for Nazis in this country. My grandfather stormed Europe to rid the world of Nazis. That they’re inside our country is uncalled for and we need to unify our country,” Eagle said. “I support our president, I understand what he’s trying to say. He probably could have done it in a better fashion, but I understand what he means. I don’t think he’s a Nazi sympathizer. He’s looking to find unity and that’s what we need to do.”

Non-Republicans weren’t so eager to give the president the benefit of the doubt. James Mawakkil, president of the Lee County NAACP, believes Trump’s comments were made to balance out what happened.

“President Trump has given white supremacists confidence they can reunite and cause terror and violence, hatred and bigotry wherever they are,” Mawakkil said. “You never want these demonstrations to turn violent, but Dr. King once said sometimes something like this is needed to show that America will not tolerate hatred and bigotry as part of this country.”

Yospeh Tedros, president of the Lee County Democratic Party, was incredulous and said that in 2017 he didn’t believe this would be an issue or anything to debate.

“It’s unacceptable. A president is supposed to be a healing force in a situation like this, not adding fuel to the fire. He’s supposed to act like a president,” Tedros said. “Saying those protecting against the nationalists were equal. I can’t believe we’re talking about this.”

When pushed on when Trump said both sides needed to share the blame, Tom Rooney and Eagle deflected the question, again reiterating their stances on the need to rid America of extremists and to unify the country.

“There’s no room in this country for them whatsoever and we need to continue to rid the world of this kind of racism and hate,” Eagle said.

“I can only speak for myself. When you see people saying ‘Death to all Jews’ and waving the Confederate flag, it’s hard to justify the two sides are equal,” Tom Rooney said.

Mawakkil said Trump was not speaking to the average American, but to white supremacists.

“It wasn’t a good move for him to make being the president of all the people. He has played a lot to the racial anxiety of hate groups, like the travel ban for Muslims, Mexican deportation,and his speech to law enforcement telling them not to be so nice to those arrested,” Mawakkil said.

Tedros said it was disappointing and condescending when one side is spewing hateful rhetoric and those standing up to them are saying this is wrong.

“We have the right to say this is unacceptable. And to compare both as the same, one is not trying to exclude people, and are standing up for the values of Americans,” Tedros said. “Things happened there, but they wouldn’t have if we didn’t have one group being against everyone unless you’re white.”