LEWISTON, Maine — While touring an L.L.Bean manufacturing facility on Thursday morning, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said she wants President Donald Trump to make a fourth statement on the violence in Charlottesville, this time making crystal clear he won’t tolerate bigotry.
“If you look at some of the chants, such as ‘blood and soil,’ that is a Nazi chant and to hear it is chilling in this day and age, so I hope that the president will give a very strong statement that removes any question about where he stands,” Collins said. “I do not believe that he is in favor of anti-semitism or racism or Nazis, but when he says that there were some ‘fine people’ in that group, it sends the wrong message at a time when we need leadership.”
Asked if Congress would take any action in the wake of the president’s Tuesday remarks, Collins said, “There’s certainly no grounds for impeachment based on speech — we have a First Amendment — but there is a moral obligation to speak out.”
Trump has been panned for not speaking out strongly enough on Saturday, condemning racism in remarks on Monday and on Tuesday saying “both sides” were to blame.
“If the president believes that his comments were misinterpreted, then he needs to bring absolute clarity to what he says,” said Collins. “He needs to make very clear that there is no place in our country for hatred, bigotry, racism, anti-semitism and hateful ideology. We expect our presidents to lift our country up and to stand for high moral standards and he needs to make clear as he did in his second statement — but not his first and third statements — that those are his beliefs, that he rejects this kind of hatred.”
She said many Republican colleagues “are as concerned as I am” and called it a rare event to have the first and second President Bush come out condemning what happened in Charlottesville.
Collins said she hopes Mainers reject white supremacy and bigotry and had been sad to hear about flyers around Boothbay Harbor encouraging people to call a KKK hotline.
“As a Catholic, I’m aware of the painful history we had in the state of Maine where the Ku Klux Klan attacked Catholics,” Collins said. “This hateful ideology has been around for a long time and when it rears its ugly head, we have to speak out forcefully. That’s what I’m doing and that’s what I want to see the president do.”