On Monday, US President Donald Trump denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

"Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence," he said.

This is fine, except for one thing. Two days before he had made no such denunciation, preferring instead to describe violence in Charlottesville after a white supremacist gathering as the result of indiscretions "on many sides, on many sides". The code was clear to all: Trump was not going to trample on the right-wing folks who stood behind him when he wrested middle America from the political establishment to win the election.

He made no mention of the alt-right thugs who had instigated the conflict.

So egregious was his failure to condemn the extreme right that pharmaceutical company Merck quit a presidential business panel.

It is a mark of the depths to which Trump has sunk that this was probably the first time a pharmaceutical company has held the moral high ground on anything.

Merck was followed by Under Armour and Intel, which withdrew from the panel six hours later.

Trump’s constituency and its "alt-right" supporters have undergone something of a revival since he took office. They used to meet in the dead of night to burn effigies. These days they march in broad daylight, Confederate flags fluttering, to demand that their icons — such as pro-slavery General Robert E Lee — continue to be commemorated with statues.

Reuters reported that Trump, stung at having to make this public reversal, turned once more to Twitter to vent his true feelings.

His target was, unsurprisingly, Merck’s Kenneth Frazier, who had walked out of his panel. Trump sent a tweet (all in capital letters, of course) about the high cost of prescription drugs, and another accusing Merck of sending jobs overseas, Bloomberg reported.

And, tweeted Trump: "Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realise once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied ... truly bad people!"


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