Almost one year after white nationalists united in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the “Unite the Right” rally, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen seems comfortable with President Donald Trump’s claims, refusing to condemn his “very fine people on both sides" remark.
“It’s not that one side is right and one side is wrong,” she told NBC News’ Peter Alexander. “Anybody that is advocating violence, we need to work to mitigate.”
The rally, which was responsible for dozens of injuries and one death, prompted Trump to condemn both sides and claim that both were to blame for the violence. When asked if the moral equivalency the president had drawn between the groups clashing during the rally made her job harder, Nielsen said that violence, no matter where it comes from, must be fought.
Alexander then went on to ask whether the Department of Homeland Security was prioritizing the threat presented by white nationalists. The answer still didn’t satisfy Americans concerned about white nationalist extremism, mainly because of how Nielsen implied that far-right extremism was just as dangerous as other types of extremist ideologies.
“DHS has made a priority to focus on all forms of violence,” Nielsen replied. “We obviously have what we had been traditionally looking at, out of radical Islam. We have the homegrown extremists, whatever camp they fall in. We also have white supremacists or other groups who self-profess that their purpose or motive is violence.”
Nielsen explained that the agency is looking at keeping people from becoming radicalized one way or another, but she never specifically addressed the white nationalist issue.
When asked about Trump's comment that there were "fine people on both sides" in Charlottesville, Sec. Nielsen seemingly doubled down. "it's not that one side was right and one side was wrong" #AspenSecurity— Tess Owen (@misstessowen) July 19, 2018
After Charlottesville, James Alex Fields was slapped with 29 federal hate crime charges for ramming his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one. He’s also facing state murder charges over the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. Others that took part in the “Unite the Right” rally may also end up in jail over violent attacks. Despite the fact that self-professed white nationalists are now in trouble with the law, the Trump administration still doesn’t seem convinced that racially-charged extremism is a problem in America.
And if Nielsen’s comments are to be considered an indicator of the administration’s intentions, it’s clear that this potentially growing group will remain free to spread its ideology.