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Story highlights

Gardner said white nationalists aren't a part of anyone's political base

He said Trump needs to speak out against white supremacy in the same way he has about Islamist extremism

(CNN) —  

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that President Donald Trump needed to make a forceful statement against white supremacy.

“This is not a time for vagaries,” Gardner said. “This isn’t a time for innuendo or to allow room to be read between the lines. This is a time to lay blame – to lay blame on bigotry, to lay blame on white supremacists, on white nationalism and on hatred. And that needs to be said.”

Gardner praised Trump for calling out Islamist terrorism across the globe and said the President needed to do the same with domestic terrorists motivated by racism.

“This President needs to do exactly that today,” Gardner said. “Call this white supremacism, this white nationalism evil, and let the country hear it, let the world hear it. It’s something that needs to come from the Oval Office, and this White House needs to do it today.”

As violence unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters, and a man rammed a car through a group of counterprotesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 others, authorities said. Trump gave a statement Saturday pointing to “many sides” as being responsible for the violence; but while he denounced bigotry, he did not condemn white supremacy.

Asked if Trump did so because he thought racists made up a portion of his base, Gardner said, “White supremacists, white nationalists, they’re not a part of anybody’s base;” he added that Republicans did not want white supremacists in their base and said that point needed to be made “crystal clear.”

Gardner stressed the importance of Trump taking charge on the issue from his role as the nation’s leader and the “healing power” offered by the White House.

Pressed again on why Trump had not spoken out against white supremacy, Gardner demurred, saying “If he doesn’t do that, then we can continue to answer the question of why.”

“But I believe he has a chance to do that today,” Gardner said.

In a separate interview on the same program, White House Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert said the White House “absolutely” condemned white supremacists and said the President’s statement was geared at unifying people and calming tensions.