It read like a poem—or, perhaps, an elegy.
no place in”
And there the words ended: paper-printed snippets of the statement President Trump had delivered on Saturday, reacting to the events that had taken place in Charlottesville. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” he had said—before adding, apparently as an ad-lib: “On many sides, on many sides.” The president repeated those words on Monday, when he made, under pressure from his colleagues and from American citizens, a more expansive statement on Charlottesville. The bigotry on display in that city, he said, reading directly from a prompter, “has no place in America.”
On Tuesday, however, those words were replaced with new ones—during a press conference, set in the lobby of Trump Tower, that was meant to be about infrastructure, but that quickly came to be about Charlottesville. At one point, President Trump removed from his jacket pocket the text of his earlier statement, printed in large and blunt sans serif, to refer to what he had said before: “I brought it, I brought it,” he said of that text, reading it once again before putting it down, figuratively and extremely literally. The Associated Press photographer Pablo Martinez Monsivais captured the moment—in which only those few words, the we and the strongest and the egregious bigotry, were visible to viewers—and the reporter Colin Campbell tweeted the results: Here was the president referring to the carefully calibrated words that had been prepared for him. And here he was, replacing them—effectively erasing them—with new ones: words that, as The New York Times summed it up, give white supremacists “an unequivocal boost.” Words that led David Duke to cheer for the new order of things.