Scott Walker

Scott Walker declined to criticize Donald Trump over his Charlottesville remarks.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said meekly that he’s not comfortable with Donald Trump’s comments that “both sides” are to blame for the violence at last weekend’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Other Republicans reacted with more vigor.

Trump's comments were part of a bizarre news conference he held on Aug. 15, during which he said there were “very fine people on both sides" of last weekend's clash between white nationalists and counterprotesters.

Scott Walker was even milder than Johnson in his criticism of Trump's comments equating white supremacists with counterprotesters in Charlottesville.

Walker told reporters that he was denouncing the hate and bigotry displayed by white supremacists and anyone else, but like Johnson he did not directly address questions about Trump's remarks, which have drawn broad bipartisan condemnation across the state and country.

The violence in Charlottesville turned deadly when a 32-year-old woman died and 19 other counterprotesters were injured after a car plowed into them. It was driven by a 20-year-old man described as an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

The driver has been charged with second-degree murder.

While Johnson and Walker were careful in responding to Trump's incendiary remarks, other Wisconsin Republicans, including freshman U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a former Marine from Green Bay, and state Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke reacted strongly.

"The president needs to be crystal clear that hatred has no place in our society, but he is currently failing,'' Gallagher said.

Steineke denounced Trump for twice saying "both sides" shared the blame for violence at the rally where the woman was killed.

"When you see evil, you have to condemn it and do it in no uncertain terms," Steineke said. "I don't believe (white supremacists) have any place in any political party and we shouldn't legitimize their views by making a moral equivalent argument."

But Johnson, an early and fervent Trump supporter, dismissed the president's controversial remarks as nothing more than Trump being Trump. “The American people elected Donald Trump and I’m not sure he's changed much from what he was during the campaign,” said Johnson, who was an early and vocal supporter.

Asked if he thought Trump was a racist, Johnson said: “I don't think so.”

When pressed to explain why, he grew testy: “Because I just don't think so ... I think we've covered this one well enough,” Johnson said.

But unlike Walker and Johnson, some Republican officials across the nation spoke out strongly against Trump's divisive rhetoric.

At a town hall meeting, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters that “the president has not been able to demonstrate the stability” to be successful.

Corker chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of the blame,” Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted. “They support an idea which cost nation & world so much pain.”

But Trump did earn praise from a least one corner of society.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists,” tweeted former KKK leader David Duke.

Duke retracted his praise after Trump, 48 hours later, denounced the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists as “criminals and thugs," the same kind of rhetoric he used to condemn Mexicans during his presidential campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

[This story has been updated to include more of Walker's reaction.]



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