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Flake and Primary Challenger Diverge on Response to Charlottesville Violence

Flake criticizes Trump’s response, Ward is more supportive

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., criticized President Donald Trump Tuesday for equivocating in his condemnation of white supremacy following violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., criticized President Donald Trump Tuesday for equivocating in his condemnation of white supremacy following violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two candidates who want to win the 2018 Republican Senate primary in Arizona have responded very differently to President Donald Trump’s comments following violence that broke out before a scheduled alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

On the one hand, incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake  has repeatedly launched veiled criticisms at Trump this week for his perceived soft response to the presence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville.

Trump reiterated at a press conference Tuesday that “both sides” were to blame for the tornado of violence that swept through Charlottesville Saturday.

Flake responded to the president’s comments via Twitter.

“We can’t accept excuses for white supremacy & acts of domestic terrorism,” he wrote. “We must condemn. Period.”

Five hours later, he followed that up.

“We can’t claim to be the party of Lincoln if we equivocate in condemning white supremacy,” Flake tweeted.

Flake’s main challenger in the primary, former state senator Kelly Ward, had a much different take. She quickly came to the president’s defense after lawmakers criticized him for blaming “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville.

An ardent Trump supporter — her Twitter bio proudly flaunts the Trump-patented hashtags “#MAGA” and “#DrainTheSwamp — Ward retweeted a message from satirist Scott Adams calling for someone to “compile the full list of groups in need of disavowal so President Trump can do them all at once, in badness order.”

On Saturday she retweeted the president and implored Americans to “stop the hate, violence, & rhetoric on both sides,” a hard echo of Trump’s comments.

Three people died in Charlottesville Saturday as alt-right groups clashed with pockets of counter-protesters throughout the day.

At one point a gray Dodge Challenger barreled into a densely packed group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring at least 19 others. James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, of Ohio, has been arrested and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and for failing to stop at the scene of a crash that resulted in death.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Saturday that the Justice Department has opened up a civil rights investigation into the crash.
 

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