WASHINGTON, Aug 24, (Agencies): Most Americans disapprove of Donald Trump’s response to the race-fueled protests and violence in Charlottesville and believe the president is dividing the country, a poll released Wednesday showed.
Trump’s job approval also sank to one of the lowest levels of his turbulent seven-month presidency, as respondents savaged his handling of racial issues following the deadly chaos that gripped the Virginia city, according to the latest Quinnipiac University Poll.
By a margin of 60 percent to 32 percent, respondents disapproved of Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville, and by a similar margin they rejected the way he has handled race relations, the survey showed.
“Elected on his strength as a deal-maker, but now overwhelmingly considered a divider, President Donald Trump has a big negative job approval rating and low scores on handling racial issues,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Since Trump’s election, hatred and prejudice in the country has increased, 65 percent of voters said, with just two percent saying it has decreased.
“One word — Charlottesville,” Malloy said.
Trump was widely criticized for using divisive language after clashes between white supremacist groups, including neo-Nazi and KKK supporters, and those opposed to them.
One woman was killed when a car driven by a suspected white supremacist plowed into a crowd of people after the rally called by far-right extremists turned violent.
Trump initially failed to explicitly condemn white supremacists for their role in the rally and the bloodshed, and said there were egregious displays of bigotry “on many sides.”
He doubled down on his deeply controversial stance three days later, insisting there was “blame on both sides.”
Poll respondents, by a margin of 62 to 35 percent, said they believe Trump “does not provide the US with moral leadership,” Quinnipiac said.
Meanwhile, workers in Charlottesville draped giant black covers over two statues of Confederate generals on Wednesday to symbolize the city’s mourning for a woman killed while protesting a white nationalist rally.
The work began around 1 pm in Emancipation Park, where a towering monument of Gen Robert E. Lee on horseback stands. Workers gathered around the monument with a large black drape. Some stood in cherry-pickers and others used ropes and poles to cover the statue as onlookers took photos and video. Some of the crowd cheered as the cover was put in place.
“It’s great. It’s a good start,” said Jamie Dyer, who spoke a short time later from nearby Justice Park, where workers covered a statue of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. “They do have to go, but it is a start, and I’m glad the city has finally recognized it has to happen on some level.”
In related news, Nick Fuentes, a radical right-wing provocateur who attended Virginia’s deadly rally in Charlottesville but denies any ties to neo-Nazis, says the nationwide backlash has only strengthened his support for Donald Trump.
But the 19-year-old student has dropped out of Boston University because of death threats owing to his attendance at the Aug 12 rally and is left wondering how to defend his beliefs in an increasingly divided US society.
“Certainly I am not intimidated or discouraged,” he tells AFP.
Fuentes says he travelled from his home near Chicago to Charlottesville to protest against what he calls “cultural genocide” in removing statues of leaders from the pro-slavery Civil War South, “massive migration” and “multiculturalism.”
But the demonstration turned violent when an avowed white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people.
The US president then sparked uproar for appearing to draw moral equivalence between the anti-racist demonstrators and white supremacists, dragging his embattled administration into a new low.
But Fuentes says that if Charlottesville turned into a “victory lap for the establishment” he’s looking for new ways to disseminate his views and that his support for the Republican commander-in-chief has not wavered.
“If anything, my support for the president has only increased,” says the student of part Mexican descent. “He showed a lot of courage.”
The backlash, he says, exposes what he calls the “increasingly irreconcilable divide between the left and the right.”