01:07 - Source: CNN
Trump: Does the 'alt-left' have any guilt?

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The South Carolina Republican senator said 'Trump took a step backward'

Lindsey Graham added his voice to Republicans distancing themselves from Trump

Washington CNN  — 

The feud between President Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham over the President’s response to racially motivated protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, continued Thursday, with the South Carolina senator accusing Trump of stoking tensions, a claim Trump called “a disgusting lie.”

“Your tweet honoring Miss Heyer was very nice and appropriate. Well done,” the South Carolina lawmaker said Thursday morning, referring to Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman who was killed in a car attack on Saturday. The man charged in her killing has been described as a Nazi sympathizer.

“However, because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy, you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our nation – as our President – please fix this.”

“History is watching us all,” added Graham, who has been one of the few Republican lawmakers to directly denounce Trump’s equivocation earlier this week between white supremacists and those who were protesting them in Charlottesville. The President blamed “both sides” for inciting violence and said there were “very fine people” protesting in the Virginia city amid the torch-bearing protesters.

Shortly before Graham’s statement Thursday, the President accused the South Carolina Republican of lying about his response to Charlottesville.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists,” Trump tweeted, “and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!”

Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, also ribbed Graham Thursday morning, noting Trump’s decisive victory in the 2016 South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

Graham, a frequent critic of the President who unsuccessfully ran against him in the 2016 presidential primaries, warned Wednesday that Trump’s rhetoric is “dividing Americans.” In a statement given to CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Wednesday, Graham had harsh words for the President.

“Mr. President, I encourage you to try to bring us together as a nation after this horrific event in Charlottesville. Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them,” Graham said.

“Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer,” Graham said in the statement, referencing Heyer, who died from injuries sustained at the rally in the Virginia city Saturday. “I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

“Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world,” Graham said.

Trump called Heyer “truly special” Wednesday on Twitter after being criticized for not responding more directly to her family.

Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, was pleased with the President’s words and took to Twitter following Trump’s comments Tuesday to thank him for his “honesty and courage.”