Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has been a vocal critic of President Trump’s response to the Charlottesville, Virginia violence. As reported by The Hill, the Vermont Senator said it was “embarrassing” for the president to assert that “both sides” share responsibility for the deaths of three people.
A photo published on Twitter that has received thousands of likes and retweets juxtaposes Sanders’ claim that Trump is to blame for the Charlottesville incident with reporting indicating that James Hodgkinson, the shooter of Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA), was a dedicated Bernie Sanders supporter.
Sanders took issue with Trump’s statement that “both sides” at Charlottesville were engaged in violence. As the Los Angeles Times noted, Trump condemned neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump’s deviation from the position held by the majority of the mainstream media is in acknowledging the presence of violent “Anti-fascists” (Antifa) operatives among the crowd of left-leaning counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” rally.
At a press conference, Trump talked about Antifa and the “Alt-Left,” asking: “Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.”
Sanders disagreed with the assessment, questioning the use of the term “Alt-Left” and arguing that no such movement exists within the American political Left. The former Democrat presidential candidate made his case on Twitter:
“The violence in Charlottesville was not caused by the “alt-left,” (whatever that may be). It was caused by Neo-Nazis and white supremacists.” For Sanders, the demonstrators who protested the removal of Confederate monuments were the originators of the fatal violence.
Eyewitness accounts suggest a different story. As covered by The Daily Wire, a New York Times reporter on the scene at Charlottesville posted to Twitter his observations of left-wing Antifa with clubs beating attendees of the “Unite the Right” rally.
The Times reporters’ remarks are critical of Charlottesville police. He asks how local law enforcement let the situation get out of hand. The Daily Caller noted that police were told to stand down in Charlottesville as the protesters and counter-protesters came to blows. WCNC observes that “Unite the Right” had a permit for their gathering. In light of this, observers have argued that the two groups should have been kept apart.
Sanders’ comments place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the white supremacists–and President Trump. The widely circulated Twitter picture suggests a parallel between blaming Trump for Charlottesville and blaming Bernie Sanders for the shooting of Republican lawmaker Steve Scalise, who has only recently been released from the hospital after suffering nearly-fatal injuries.
USA Today reports that James Hodgkinson, the man who shot Rep. Scalise, was a fervent Bernie Sanders supporter who volunteered for the Vermont senator’s presidential campaign. Hodgkinson also deeply hated Trump and went to the Alexandria, Virginia baseball field with the intention of killing Republican politicians.
The juxtaposition of Trump and Sanders suggests a moral equivalency between the two tragedies. Twitter users are employing it to argue that if Trump is responsible for Charlottesville, Sanders is just as responsible for the horrific shooting in Alexandria. While both notions are absurd, absurdities are often mistaken as fact when it comes to social justice activism.