Dear President Trump,
I write to you as the CEO of a non-governmental organization, American Jewish Committee (AJC), which has been an integral part of the American landscape since our founding in 1906.
We are a fiercely non-partisan group – driven by policies, not parties; by issues, not individuals; by values, not votes.
What we witnessed in Charlottesville on Friday and Saturday was nothing short of horrifying.
It was sickening enough to see people drawn together by the siren songs of white supremacy, the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazism. But however repugnant their views may be, so long as they conducted themselves peacefully, their freedom of speech is protected in our blessed land.
But it was abundantly clear that at least some of these racists, anti-Semites, and homophobes came to Charlottesville looking for trouble. The result is now well-known. A young woman, with so much to look forward to in her life, was killed, and many others were injured, some in serious condition.
Mr. President, precisely at such moments of national tragedy and, yes, definition, your voice becomes essential. Others cannot substitute for you. You are our leader, you set the tone, and you have an incomparable bully pulpit.
Thus, when you chose to use those three words describing the hatred – “on many sides” – and to repeat them twice, alas, you turned what should have been a unifying moment into a divisive one.
Respectfully, whatever your intention might have been, your remark could be interpreted to suggest a moral equivalence between the bigots and those who stood against them. In our view, that was totally unwarranted and needed quick clarification.
It is late, but not too late, we believe, to set the record straight.
We hope you will make clear that our nation does not countenance the warped views of bigots, as was on display in Charlottesville. Their approach tears at the pluralistic fabric of our great country, just as it has done for centuries, and endangers the notable progress we have made in recent decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
We also urge you to send a strong message to these extremist groups that their endorsement is not welcome. Of course, every political leader seeks support from a range of voters, but, surely, there are limits, and those who preach racial supremacy, religious bigotry, and ethnic division, should be deemed well beyond the pale.
And finally, we count on the Department of Justice, as Attorney General Sessions has indicated, to investigate thoroughly the violence in Charlottesville, and leave no stone unturned in the process.
For us, we can find no other words to describe what happened on Saturday than domestic terrorism – the premeditated targeting of civilians for political purposes.
Just as what occurred so tragically in other American places – from Fort Hood to Charleston, from Boston to Oklahoma City, and the list goes on – the full force of the law, coupled with the moral leadership of our elected officials and the coalition of conscience of civil society, must always be our resolute answer.
Thank you for your consideration of this heartfelt plea.