WASHINGTON — Under fire for defending racist activist groups, President Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that he was “sad” to see United States’ history torn apart by the removal of “our beautiful statues and monuments,” echoing a popular refrain of white supremacist groups that oppose the removal of Confederate monuments.
Officials in several states have called for the removal of public monuments that have become symbols of the Confederacy.
The Twitter posts were the latest in his escalating remarks that critics contend validate white supremacist groups who led a bloody rally over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va. The proposed removal of a statute of the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park in Charlottesville spurred the demonstrations.
Mr. Trump’s tweets came the morning after his personal lawyer forwardedan email to conservative journalists, government officials and friends that painted Lee in glowing terms and echoed secessionist sentiment from the Civil War era.
On Saturday, the day of the protests, Mr. Trump did not condemn neo-Nazis or white supremacists in his public remarks about the violence, prompting criticism that his omission suggested support for the racist groups. An Ohio man with white supremacist ties is accused of driving his car into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people.
Two days later, Mr. Trump bowed to pressure and said racism was “evil”and named racist organizations in his follow-up remarks about Charlottesville. But on Tuesday, Mr. Trump reverted to his initial public posture and blamed “both sides” for the violence.
Mr. Trump said many of those who opposed the statue’s removal were good people protesting the loss of their culture, and he questioned whether taking down statues of Lee could lead to monuments of Washington also being removed.
On Thursday morning, Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, repeated his criticism of the president’s actions in a series of Twitter posts after Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Graham was “publicity seeking.”
“Because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation — as our President — please fix this,” Mr. Graham wrote on Twitter.