Five Jewish Democratic state legislators from Virginia are calling on Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie to reprimand President Donald Trump for his reaction to the Unite the Right protests in Charlottesville this month that killed three and injured more than 19.
The letter, dated Aug. 29, was signed by state Sens. Dick Saslaw and Adam Ebbin, and Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn, Marcus Simon and Mark Levine. In it, they write that Trump’s reaction to the presence of neo-Nazis at the protests was “shocking and saddening,” and demand that Gillespie speak out. Trump had called some of the neo-Nazis “very fine people” in a press conference three days after the protests.
“‘Very fine people’ don’t march with people who are holding Nazi flags and chanting anti-Semitic slogans,” the letter says. “We were heartened to see, in the wake of Donald Trump’s horrifying comments, that leaders in both parties came together to reject hate and renew our nation’s founding principles of equality and inclusiveness. But instead of joining these leaders — including many prominent Republicans — we understand you have refused to speak out against the President’s reaction to Charlottesville.”
The legislators went on to write that Gillespie’s refusal to condemn Trump’s comments was a “colossal failure of leadership,” and a “moral abdication.”
A number of Republican senators, including Arizona’s John McCain, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Florida’s Marco Rubio, have been outspoken about Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.
Gillespie faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the Nov. 7 general election. Both candidates released statements in the wake of the Charlottesville protests, but Gillespie’s differed from his opponent’s by not naming any of the hate groups.
“These displays have no place in our commonwealth, and the mentality on display is rejected by the decent, thoughtful and compassionate fellow Virginians I see every day,” he wrote. “I know we all appreciate the law enforcement officials maintaining order and protecting public safety there.”