A "Water is Life" poster can be seen on the far right during the Charlottesville Candlelight Vigil at the White House on August 13, 2017. Photo: Ted Eytan
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President Trump offers late rebuke to 'White supremacists' as industry leaders quit council

President Donald Trump offered a late rebuke of the "KKK, neo-Nazis, White supremacists and other hate groups" in an attempt to address controversy over his handling of a racial violence in Virginia.

Trump was on a working vacation at one of his properties in New Jersey when Heather Heyer, 32, was killed on Saturday. A White supremacist has been charged with second-degree murder but Trump's initial response to the tragedy cited violence "on many sides" without explaining why racist groups flocked to Charlottesville in the first place.

Two days later, Trump returned to the White House and offered a more clear statement. "Racism is evil," he said on Monday, noting that the Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the incident.

"To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered," Trump said.

But earlier in the day, Trump sounded a lot less conciliatory. In two posts on Twitter, he lashed out against an industry leader who quit his American Manufacturing Council in response to his handling of the incident.

"Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!" Trump wrote in one of the posts. Ken Frazier, the chairman and chief executive officer of the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., happens to be one of the few African-American executives leading a for-profit company.

By the end of the day, two more business leaders quit the council. Both are White males -- Trump didn't say anything about their decisions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the leader of the Department of Justice, has been more clear in his response to the violence. He announced a civil rights investigation almost immediately after Heyer's death and later told Good Morning America that her death was an act of "domestic terrorism."

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal statute, was written in response to racially-motivated crimes. The first-ever prosecution under the 2009 law took place in New Mexico after a disabled citizen of the Navajo Nation was brutally attacked by three men in April 2010. The law survived a challenge from one of the defendants, all of whom pleaded guilty for their roles in the crime, which occurred outside of Indian Country.

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, a follower of a White supremacist group, made his first court appearance on the murder charge on Tuesday morning, CNN reported. He took part in the Unite the Right event before allegedly ramming his car into Heyer and others in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Read More on the Story:
James Alex Fields Jr. has first hearing; tensions still high in Charlottesville (CNN August 15, 2017)
‘Racism is evil,’ Trump says, condemning ‘white supremacists’ and hate groups (The Washington Post August 14, 2017)
Merck, Intel, Under Armor CEOs quit council over Trump’s initial response to rally (The Washington Post August 14, 2017)
New Outcry as Trump Rebukes Charlottesville Racists 2 Days Later (The New York Times August 14, 2017)
Under Armour and Intel C.E.O.s Follow Merck Chief, Quitting Panel in Rebuke to Trump (The New York Times August 14, 2017)

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Department of Justice opens civil rights investigation into Charlottesville death (August 14, 2017)