President Donald Trump’s military leaders have roundly rebuked the deadly violence that unfolded at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.
“No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller tweeted, hours after Trump’s press conference on Tuesday. “Our core values of Honour, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.”
The US Navy’s senior military officer weighed in on Saturday, the same day the three fatalities were confirmed in the aftermath of the rally: “Events in Charlottesville unacceptable & musnt be tolerated @USNavy forever stands against intolerance & hatred,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson tweeted.
The official Twitter account for the 82nd Airborne Division, one of the US Army’s renowned infantry units, addressed an image of a man who wore a hat bearing the division’s emblem while rendering what appeared to be a KKK salute.
The image has since been retweeted about 30,000 times since Saturday, and circulated across military groups in social-media channels.
“Respectfully, anyone who thinks this man represents our culture and values has never worn the maroon beret…and never will,” the 82nd Airborne Division tweeted, referring to the man in the photo.
“Our WWII Airborne forefathers jumped into Europe to defeat Nazism. We know who we are. We know our legacy.”
“Anyone can purchase that hat. Valor is earned,” the 82nd Airborne Division continued.
The military leaders’ response to Charlottesville stood in contrast to Trump’s, who initially blamed “many sides” for the violence that erupted on Saturday.
Trump made a follow-up statement days later that specifically called out white supremacist hate groups that organised the event, but during a freewheeling press conference on Tuesday, Trump returned to his original position, labelling multiple parties as complicit in the Charlottesville unrest, and seeming to defend some of the alt-right figures who were there.
That move has prompted fierce rebukes from Republicans and Democrats, who have condemned Trump and the white nationalist figures who praised his remarks on Tuesday.
Trump has lauded the US military throughout his campaign and early presidency, and polled favourably among service members during the beginning of his first term.
However, his support from the military appeared to wane in recent months, according to a Gallup poll in May where Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings dropped to 43% and 52%, respectively. Trump’s overall approval hit a new low of 34% on Tuesday, according to a Gallup daily tracking poll.
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