President Trump returned to the White House on Monday to address the white nationalism that fueled a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
"Racism is evil, and those who cause 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." Trump said Monday afternoon. "Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America."
The president, who had previously been criticized for his muted response to the violence, also confirmed that the Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Trump also called for unity in his prepared remarks.
"We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence." Trump said. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans."
After making his brief statement, Trump left the Oval Office without taking questions. He had previously announced plans to hold a "pretty big press conference" on Monday.
"He was asked by reporters why he waited so long to condemn hate groups," CNN's Jim Acosta noted. "He did not respond."
Trump had been widely criticized for not specifically chastising the hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klan members whose views fueled the violence that left a counter-protester dead and indirectly resulted in the helicopter crash that killed two state troopers on protest duty.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides," Trump said during a Saturday press conference from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
After Trump's initial response, Merck CEO and Philadelphia native Kenneth Frazier resigned in protest from the president's American Manufacturing Council as a "matter of personal conscience."
Frazier said in a statement Monday: "America's leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry, and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal."
Following the Merck executive's decision, Trump lashed out via Twitter at Frazier, who was the only African-American member on a council that includes executives from more than 25 companies.
On Sunday, the White House had attempted to clarify Trump's comments, issuing a statement from an unnamed spokesperson that read, "Of course" the president condemns violence by "white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups."
Vice President Pence on Sunday night defended Trump's initial comments and called out the media for reporting on the widespread criticism of Trump's remarks, despite the fact many Republicans were critical of the president's response.
"I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president's words than they did criticizing those that perpetuated the violence to begin with," Pence said during a news conference in Cartagena, Colombia, according to a White House pool report.
This is a breaking news report. Check back for updates.