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Regardless of whether he intended it, Trump's words "caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn," the former Republican presidential nominee and Massachusetts governor wrote in a Facebook post. Romney called on the president to apologize for his remarks.
"He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize," Romney wrote. "State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis — who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat — and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute."
Romney's statement was among the most forceful issued by prominent Republicans following Trump's response to the rally. Romney vocally opposed Trump when he was a candidate but got considered for secretary of state.
Other former Republican presidents and presidential nominees either directly or indirectly criticized Trump for his response.
"There's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wrote in a tweet Tuesday.
Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — both of whom have said they did not vote for Trump — also issued a rare joint statement Wednesday condemning racism. They did not mention the president by name.
"America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms," the Bushes said. Referring to Thomas Jefferson, they added: "As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city's most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country."
On Saturday, a car allegedly driven by a suspected white nationalist rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, killing one woman and injuring many others. It followed skirmishes between the torch-bearing white supremacists and people demonstrating against them.
In a fiery Tuesday news conference, Trump appeared to suggest a moral equivalency between the groups, saying good and violent people gathered in both groups and "both sides" are to blame for the violence. He also contended that some of the people who marched with the white nationalists were not bad.
His comments drew rebukes from bipartisan lawmakers and sparked backlash from corporate America, as top executives started to leave advisory councils to the president before the groups were disbanded.
Here's Romney's full statement:
"I will dispense for now from discussion of the moral character of the president's Charlottesville statements. Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.
"The leaders of our branches of military service have spoken immediately and forcefully, repudiating the implications of the president's words. Why? In part because the morale and commitment of our forces — made up and sustained by men and women of all races — could be in the balance. Our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished. And who would want to come to the aid of a country they perceive as racist if ever the need were to arise, as it did after 9/11?
"In homes across the nation, children are asking their parents what this means. Jews, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims are as much a part of America as whites and Protestants. But today they wonder. Where might this lead? To bitterness and tears, or perhaps to anger and violence?
"The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis — who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat — and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.
"This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country."