President Trump condemns KKK, neo-Nazis as 'thugs'

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WOODBURY -

President Donald Trump on Monday condemned white supremacist groups, two days after violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"Racism is evil," the president said, "and anyone who causes violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

The statement Monday came in the face of escalating pressure and bipartisan criticism of comments Trump made Saturday. In his earlier remarks, he did not call out white supremacists and blamed the bigotry and violence in Charlottesville "on many sides."

One woman was killed and 19 others were injured when authorities say an Ohio man rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters on the streets of Charlottesville. It happened as a white nationalist rally was declared unlawful and began to spiral into violent clashes.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a supporter of the president, applauded the president’s latest statement while saying he wishes Trump denounced such groups sooner.

"When something like this does arise, it's important that you denounce it right away, which I'm glad President Trump did today," King says. "I wish he'd done it Saturday, but the fact that he did it today shows me his true intent."

But others, including local NAACP officials, feel that President Trump helped embolden the groups that brought violence to Charlottesville.

"What has transpired today is a glimmer of hope in the right direction, but certainly President Trump has a lot of work to do to undo the evil work that he helped to generate," says William King Moss III, who heads the Islip Town branch of the NAACP.

Long Islanders who spoke with News 12 about President Trump's remarks had mixed opinions, with some saying his condemnation was too little too late, and others saying his response was appropriate.

The Department of Justice says it has opened a civil rights investigation into Saturday's violence.

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