BERLIN/LONDON (Reuters) – America’s closest allies condemned U.S. President Donald Trump in unusually strong and personal terms on Wednesday after he put part of the blame for violent clashes in the state of Virginia on those marching against gun-brandishing neo-Nazis.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, widely criticised at home for cultivating close ties to Trump during his first half year in office, spoke out after the president repeated his view that the white nationalists and counter-protesters were both to blame.
“There’s no equivalence, I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them and I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them,” May said.
The leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats said May should rescind her invitation to Trump to pay a state visit to Britain.
“After. @realDonaldTrump whitewash of murder and hatred by #WhiteSupremacists why is he still on list of invited official guests to UK?” Vince Cable tweeted.
Politicians in Germany, which has tough laws against hate speech and any symbols linked to the Nazis who murdered 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, expressed shock at the images of people in Charlottesville, Virginia carrying swastikas and chanting anti-Jewish slurs.
Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the “racist, far-right violence”.
Her challenger in next month’s election called Trump’s comments the “confused utterances” of a dangerous man.
“We should not tolerate the monstrosities coming out of the president’s mouth,” Martin Schulz told the RND newspaper group in an interview.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, like Schulz a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) which rules in coalition with Merkel, accused Trump of trivialising anti-Semitism and racism.
His Israeli counterpart, Ayelet Shaked, a member of the ultranationalist Jewish Home party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, tweeted: “The neo-Nazis in the United States should be prosecuted. This was not what the American constitution was meant for.”
In a heated news conference on Tuesday, Trump said there was “blame on both sides” for the violence, which culminated in the death of a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, after a car crashed into anti-racist demonstrators. A 20-year-old Ohio man said to have harboured Nazi sympathies has been charged with her murder.
Trump’s remarks were praised by white supremacists like David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, who applauded the president’s “honesty and courage”.
But in Europe, even far-right parties that have welcomed Trump’s nationalist message, were critical of his stance.
“These were white supremacists and racists. They need to be condemned in very clear terms,” said Florian Philippot, vice president of France’s National Front and the manager of Marine Le Pen’s campaign for the French presidency.
(This story has been refiled to delete typo in paragraph seven)
Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal and Michael Nienaber in Berlin, Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Richard Lough in Paris, Kirsti Knolle in Vienna, Robert Muller in Prague, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Editing by Robin Pomeroy