John McCain: 'No moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate'

Key Points
  • Senator McCain said President Trump should make clear there is no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up against hate
  • In a chaotic news conference earlier, the president defended the protest and said some individuals at the white nationalist rally did not have bad intentions
  • Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also took to Twitter to condemn Trump's response

Senator John McCain took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to criticize President Donald Trump's response to the deadly white nationalist rally in Virginia.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Trump defended the protest that led to the violence and contended that some of the individuals carrying torches at the rally did not have bad intentions. He blamed all sides for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists and the press has treated them absolutely unfairly," Trump said.

He added, "I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don't have any doubt about it either."

Read the transcript of President Trump's press conference here.

McCain, who was the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee, said on Twitter that, as president of the United States, Trump should make clear that there was "no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry."

Meanwhile, the 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney also condemned Trump's response at the earlier press conference. In a tweet, Romney said, "No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes."

Scuffles broke out between participants at the white nationalist rally and counterprotesters over the weekend. A suspected white nationalist allegedly later rammed a car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19 people.

Following the incident, Trump had initially condemned violence "on many sides." The move drew bipartisan criticism, and the White House then attempted to limit the damage on Monday with Trump making a statement condemning neo-Nazis, white supremacists and KKK members.

Several business leaders were also , following those remarks. The CEOs of Intel, Under Armour and Merck resigned from the president's American Manufacturing Council in the span of a day.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.