Updated at 9:33 p.m. ET
If President Trump’s belated denunciation on Monday of white supremacists, racism, and neo-Nazism brought congressional Republicans a brief period of relief, his press conference on Tuesday gave the party a whole new—if all too familiar—headache.
Trump seemed to return to his rhetoric from Saturday, when after the death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, he blamed “many sides” for the day’s strife—a reaction that drew criticism from his fellow Republicans. During his remarks Tuesday, the president defended the white nationalists who’d demonstrated in the small city, and said they included “some very fine people.” He laid some of the blame for the violence that broke out at the feet of “alt-left” counter-protesters, and he equated the Confederate General Robert E. Lee with America’s Founding Fathers.
After Trump finished speaking, the rebukes from congressional Republicans started rolling in all over again. Some, like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Will Hurd of Texas, criticized the president directly in tweets and statements. Others, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, withheld Trump’s name even if their target was obvious. “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive,” Ryan tweeted. “This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.” Lawmakers who followed Ryan’s style—the subtweet over the frontal, specific denunciation—included Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority whip still recovering from being shot at a congressional baseball practice in June. “I was clear about this bigotry & violence over the weekend and I’ll repeat it today: We must defeat white supremacy and all forms of hatred,” Scalise wrote. So, too, did House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, a now-frequent Trump critic.