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Kansas officials react to Charlottesville violence and Trump's comments

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Members of the Kansas congressional delegation have been turning to social media in recent days to express their reactions to last weekend’s violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., but only a few have specifically called out President Donald Trump for his controversial remarks on the subject.

Second District Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican whose district includes Lawrence, posted a statement on her Facebook page addressed specifically to Trump, criticizing statements he made in a news conference the day before laying equal blame on the white supremacists who organized the rally and the counter-protesters.

“White supremacy, Nazis, and the KKK are a blight on our nation. Equal blame is not correct and racism should not be ignored,” Jenkins wrote. “When you use words that excuse their views it only fuels their hatred, further divides our nation, and tarnishes the sacred office you hold. For generations, Americans have fought and gone to war to stomp out ideologies like this. We must not turn our back on their sacrifice. Now is the time for all us to come together as Americans and help put an end to this bigotry.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran also criticized the president for his remarks.

“White supremacy, bigotry & racism have absolutely no place in our society & no one — especially POTUS — should ever tolerate it,” Moran wrote on Twitter Tuesday evening.

Both Jenkins and Moran were responding to comments Trump made during a news conference Tuesday when he tried to draw a moral equivalency between the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who staged the rally on Saturday and the counter-protesters who opposed them.

“I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump said. “What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

Trump’s comments Tuesday echoed comments he made the day of the rally, on Saturday, after a white supremacist rammed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring more than a dozen others. Then, Trump said there was blame, “on many, many sides” for the violence.

Two Virginia state police officers who were monitoring the rally also died Saturday when their helicopter crashed.

Third District Congressman Kevin Yoder spoke at a predominantly African-American church in Kansas City, Kan., the following day, making a veiled reference to Trump, and then wrote about it on his Facebook page.

“This morning, I attended church services at the First Baptist Church in KCK and spoke to the congregation about how we as leaders need to be clear and direct in how we condemn the hatred, bigotry and racism on display in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend,” Yoder wrote. “The white supremacist ideology fueling those marching in the streets has no place in this world, and by calling it what it is — evil and terror — we will never allow it to grow or prosper.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts also kept his remarks terse in a brief statement on Twitter the day of the rally.

“The hatred & ignorance displayed by the violent & pathetic group in #charlottsville is unacceptable. Their values are not American values,” Roberts wrote.

First District Rep. Roger Marshall of Great Bend was out of the country on the day of the Charlottesville violence as part of a congressional delegation visiting Israel. He returned Monday and immediately commented about it on his Facebook page.

“I condemn, in the strongest terms, this week’s act of domestic terror and hateful rhetoric by white supremacists, Neo-Nazis and KKK sympathizers,” Marshall wrote. “These dangerous factions have no role in a civilized, American society. Their bigotry is incompatible with, and is the opposite of all this country stands for.”

Fourth District Rep. Ron Estes is the only member of the Kansas delegation who has not commented on the violence. His office did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email seeking comment.

Two other Kansas officials with ties to the Trump administration have also been relatively silent about the violence and about Trump’s reaction to it: Gov. Sam Brownback, who is Trump’s nominee to become ambassador at-large for religious freedom; and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a candidate for governor who is vice-chair of Trump’s Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.

Kobach is also a frequent contributor to Breitbart News, a website partially founded by and once led by Steve Bannon, who is now a senior Trump adviser. Bannon once famously referred to Breitbart as a “platform for the alt-right,” a term used to refer collectively to ultraconservatives who embrace white nationalist and white supremacist ideologies.

Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, in a statement released Wednesday, called out both men for their silence, as well as Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

“What happened in Charlottesville — and what is being faced by communities around the country — is no longer a matter of right or left, Republican or Democrat. It’s a matter of right and wrong. And it’s time for the leaders of Kansas to make it known which side they stand on,” Hensley said in the statement.

In response to a request for comment, Brownback issued a statement via email saying, “Racism, hatred, and violence should have no place in American life. Our state was born of the idea that all people are created equal, and that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. I, along with the people of Kansas, condemn any sentiment or demonstration against this fundamental truth.”

Colyer, who will become governor soon, assuming Brownback is confirmed for the ambassadorship, also issued a statement Wednesday, following Hensley’s criticism.

“I have seen the evil extremes of racial and ethnic cleansing first hand in Rwanda and other places around the globe,” he said. “We must stamp out these harmful ideologies and evil doers before they can take root here at home. Kansas has been and will continue to be a beacon of light and hope for those who fight for equality and justice for all.”

Kobach also issued a statement late Wednesday firing back at Hensley.

“It goes without saying that white supremacist views and racism are reprehensible,” he said in a statement emailed to reporters. “I did not comment on the horrific attack in Charlottesville because I am running for governor of Kansas, not governor of Virginia. Apparently, Mr. Hensley thinks that the vast majority of governors in America are all racists too, because they have made no public comment on the Charlottesville attack either. It is pathetic that a man with such poor logical thinking has been teaching public school kids in Kansas for so many years.”

Hensley teaches high school social studies in the Topeka school district.

Comments

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 months, 1 week ago

The radical right finally went to far. We know what Kobach's stand is. He is very anti-immigration, and I'm talking about legal immigration. Richard Spencer, the organizer is anti immigration. They are buddies.

Richard Neuschafer 6 months, 1 week ago

True. And Kobach has spent a good part of the last month to 6 weeks interviewing with and writing articles for Breitbart. Those scum are Kobach's core constituency.

Nick Naidenov 6 months, 1 week ago

Can we please rename Burroughs Park? Is a wife murderer that skipped bail below that of a racist? I'm not being sarcastic. I think it's ridiculous and insulting that the city honored a murderer with my tax dollars.

Greg Cooper 6 months, 1 week ago

Go for it if you believe it, Nick. I'll sign your petition. Really. Show the courage of your stated convictions.

Nick Naidenov 6 months, 1 week ago

I'm seriously thinking about it. I have to drive by it everyday. I'm leaving for an overseas trip but when I get back this fall it's definitely going to be a consideration. Or if someone else has more free time and knowledge on how to do it I'll sign the petition to.

Bob Forer 6 months, 1 week ago

IN all fairness it was probably manslaughter as opposed to murder.

Lynn Grant 6 months, 1 week ago

Maybe Sammie is between a rock and a hard place. He isn't confirmed yet for Trump's job offer. Let's see: speak out for what is right or lose a job possibility. Kobach, well the fact that he is running for governor is a poor excuse for not acknowledging a hateful situation.

Jim Knight 6 months, 1 week ago

Senator Moran and Congressional Rep Lynn Jenkins deserve credit for their comments, but Senator Roberts' comments and the others who refuse to call out Trump are cowardly. They refuse to say anything about the real problem here, Trump. The people who walked through the streets of Charlottesville with their tiki torches were fascists, waving Nazis flags, making Hitler salutes, and shouting "death to Jews" and the Nazis slogan "blood and soil." There are no two sides here. These people hold the same views that thousands of Americans gave their lives to fight against in the second world war. Damn right protestors should rise up against them. People should fight against the awful blight on humanity that fascism is, and our leaders' refusal to call out Trump shows that either they are cowards, or they have no moral compass, or they are being paid too much by extreme right supporters to speak the truth, and I'm not sure which is worse. This is not conservative versus liberal. These are the repugnant Nazis people died to stop. If you cannot condemn a president who says those who fought against the Nazis are the same as Nazis, then you are simply not a public servant, in fact you have chosen to be on the side of Hitler. And that's not rhetoric, that's truth.

Andrew Applegarth 6 months, 1 week ago

So, since this country has also fought communism, you're saying it's okay to hold violent counter-protests against anybody who voted for Bernie Sanders and to deny them their constitutional rights? I mean, that's what you just said in reference to the Nazis, so you would have to be a massive hypocrite to not apply it to communists as well.

Out of curiosity, did you happen to vote for Bernie? Enquiring minds want to know...

(No, that is not a threat. I'm not like you, so you only have to worry if you force me to defend myself.)

Richard Neuschafer 6 months, 1 week ago

Andrew, you are pulling a boneheaded Trump move by using false equivalence. It's a logical fallacy. Comparing Bernie Sanders with Adolf Hitler or Communism is not a valid comparison. Hitler is responsible for the deaths of over 6 million Jews plus over 40 million in combat. The wars in Korea and Vietnam cost about 2.5 million lives. How many people did Bernie Sanders kill? Zero. Go back to school and actually learn something this time.

Andrew Applegarth 6 months, 1 week ago

I don't know how many people Bernie Sanders has killed. Then again, I also don't know how many people Hitler killed before he was elected. To be honest, I'm not really keen on letting Bernie get into a similar position to see if he will give Hitler a run for the title. If I was like you and Jim Knight, I'd be shutting down him and all of his supporters and to hell with their constitutional rights, just to make sure that he didn't get there.

Oh look, you led me right back to where I was in my previous post... Thanks for helping me make my point!

Now, because I'm pretty sure you still aren't going to understand, let me explain. The point of my previous post was to swap the positions so that Jim was looking down the barrel of his own gun. Obviously it went over the heads of a lot of people, but it was never actually about communism (or Bernie). It was about Jim seeing what he wished on others.

Maybe there's an easier way to demonstrate it. All you need is a gun (unloaded for safety), a mirror, and a mask of somebody you dislike. It can be Trump, Hitler, Bernie, me, etc. It doesn't really matter who it is. With nobody else around, wear the mask while standing in front of the mirror. Sight down the barrel, pointing the gun right between your opponent's eyes. Now focus instead on the image of the exact same gun being pointed at you.

Do you understand now?

Kendall Simmons 6 months, 1 week ago

Andrew Applegath . It is obvious that you honestly don't grasp the difference between communism and socialism, much less the difference between them AND capitalism AND democratic socialism. Heck, you don't even seem to understand what Bernie Sanders "supports". (And, no, I most certainly did NOT vote for him.)

Instead of grasping at straws and trying to make valid arguments based on make-believe and ignorance, why don't you do something simple like, say, actually read about them? Here's a basic article that should clarify things for you:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/do-you-know-the-difference-between-a-communist-and-a-socialist-a6708086.html

Andrew Applegarth 6 months, 1 week ago

So, my point went over your head. I understand. Maybe you can get an adult to explain the concept of 'turning the tables' to get somebody to see what they're really suggesting. Perhaps you'll learn something other than splitting hairs to avoid the truth.

As to the article you linked, it was a poorly written, subjective attempt to persuade. All in all, it's a horrible choice for somebody wanting to actually learn the facts.

Stu Clark 6 months, 1 week ago

I think that your point was that Bernie Sander's policies and communism are one and the same. If your point is other than that, then I guess it did go over my head. In any case, your point, as I see it, is made either from ignorance or from an attempt to mislead because it is simply wrong.

Andrew Applegarth 6 months, 1 week ago

The only thing wrong here was you saying "I think" because it's pretty obvious that you did not.

I'll say it again for the intellectually challenged like Stu Clark. My comment was not actually about Bernie Sanders nor communism. It was about how the original poster would feel if he was to be the target of his own cry to deny constitutional rights to people based on political ideology.

It's easy to demand that others be silenced, but it sure sucks when you find yourself muzzled by your own rules. Think about that!

Tracy Rogers 6 months, 1 week ago

Isn't Virginia Pat Robert's home state? He ought to be concerned.

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