Esme Cribb

Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Esme

Fox News host Melissa Francis on Wednesday said she was “uncomfortable” being questioned about her staunch defense of President Donald Trump’s remarks blaming “both sides” for violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally where participants changed Nazi slogans over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“He never said equal blame,” Francis said on Fox News’ “Outnumbered.” “No one said equal, and that’s one of the places where this went off the rails.”

“He said there were ‘very good people’ among the neo-Nazi protesters,” Fox News contributor Marie Harf replied. “He did — don’t roll your eyes! He did say those words, Melissa.”

“He didn’t say there were ‘very good people among neo-Nazi protesters.’ He didn’t say that. Find that,” Francis shot back.

“He said there were very good people on the other side,” Harf said. “It was clear what he was talking about.”

“There were people that were opposed to the statues coming down. Look, can I tell you this? I am so uncomfortable having this conversation,” Francis said.

She became visibly emotional and appeared to fight back tears as she continued, “Because I know what’s in my heart, and I know that I don’t think anyone is different, better or worse, based on the color of their skin, but I feel like there is nothing any of us can say right now without being judged!”

“You know, Melissa, there’ve been a lot of tears on our network, and across the country, and around the world,” co-host Harris Faulkner said.

“It’s a difficult place where we are,” Faulkner continued. “This is not 1950. We can do this. We can have this conversation. Oh, yes, we can. And it’s okay if we cry having it.”

A chain pizza restaurant in Vermont on Tuesday fired an employee who participated in a white supremacist rally where violence erupted over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Burlington Free Press reported that Ryan Roy, an employee at chain restaurant Uno Pizzeria and Grill’s location in South Burlington, was fired after he was identified as a participant in the rally.

Skip Weldon, chief marketing officer for Uno Pizzeria and Grill, told the Burlington Free Press that Roy was “terminated” and that the chain is “committed to the fair treatment of all people and the safety of our guests and employees at our restaurants.”

According to the report, Roy appeared in a Vice News video report on the rally. The restaurant became aware of his attendance at the rally through social media messages and phone calls.

Roy told the Burlington Free Press that he attended the rally and other events in Charlottesville over the weekend, and said of the reaction to his participation, “I think it kind of just proves my point, proves a lot of what I think, not that I needed further proof.”

“I think it’s group think,” he said, as quoted in the report. “Obviously I would advocate for racial separation and racial nationalism or repatriation.”

Roy said he would “even” favor “a return to” the time before the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished a quota-based immigration system favoring northern European immigrants.

Until that legislation, Roy claimed, “Our country was a white country.”

A number of rally attendees were identified on social media after the events of the weekend. A hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, California, announced on Sunday that it no longer employed Cole White, who also attended the white supremacist rally.

Top Dog announced that White “chose to voluntarily resign his employment.”

“We pride ourselves on embracing and respecting all our differences and every individual’s choice to do as that person wishes within the boundaries of the law. We do not endorse hatred or any illegal conduct,” the company said. “We do respect our employees’ right to their opinions. They are free to make their own choices but must accept the responsibilities of those choices.”

Another participant in the rally faced public denunciation by his own father after he was identified.

Peter Tefft, who identifies himself on Twitter as a “pro-white activist,” appeared in a video of white nationalists marching with torches.

Tefft’s father wrote in a letter to North Dakota-Minnesota news site Inforum that Tefft was “an avowed white nationalist” with “hateful opinions” who was “not welcome at our family gatherings any longer.”

“He once joked, ‘The thing about us fascists is, it’s not that we don’t believe in freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. We’ll just throw you in an oven,’” Tefft’s father wrote. “Peter, you will have to shovel our bodies into the oven, too.”

A majority of Americans think President Donald Trump’s response to violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was not strong enough, according to a poll released Wednesday.

According to the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 52 percent of respondents said Trump’s response was not strong enough, while 27 percent thought it was sufficient.

Just 19 percent of Republicans thought Trump should have taken a stronger position, while 59 percent thought his response was strong enough.

Among Democrats, on the other hand, 79 percent of respondents thought Trump’s response wasn’t strong enough, while 10 percent thought it was sufficient.

In his initial response, Trump condemned violence from “many sides” in a statement he did not clarify until two days later, when he condemned white supremacists, neo-Nazis and hate groups by name. In an off-the-rails press conference on Wednesday, however, he again reversed position, returning to equivocal rhetoric blaming “both sides” that white supremacists hailed as an improvement.

The survey was conducted from a sample of 1,125 adults from Aug. 14–15, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. Party affiliation results were taken from a sample of 859 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

The president of a synagogue in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Monday described the scene — men armed with semi-automatic rifles, Nazi slogans and symbols and an arson threat — as white supremacists held a rally in the city that erupted into violence.

“The loss of life far outweighs any fear or concern felt by me or the Jewish community during the past several weeks as we braced for this Nazi rally – but the effects of both will each linger,” Alan Zimmerman, the president of Congregation Beth Israel, wrote on ReformJudaism.org.

Zimmerman said the synagogue hired an “armed security guard” after “the police department refused” to provide an officer.

“Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept — and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped,” he said.

Zimmerman said he stood outside the synagogue with the synagogue’s armed guard as 40 congregants worshipped inside.

“For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple,” he said. “Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.”

Zimmerman said the men did not try to enter the synagogue, but passing “parades of Nazis” shouted “There’s the synagogue!” when they passed the building, “followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language.”

“When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups,” he said.

Zimmerman said he later “arrived on the scene” after a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others.

“It was a horrific and bloody scene,” he said. “Soon, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue.”

Zimmerman said “it was just talk,” but that the synagogue “had already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.”

“This is in America in 2017,” he said. “Local police faced an unprecedented problem that day, but make no mistake, Jews are a specific target of these groups, and despite nods of understanding from officials about our concerns – and despite the fact that the mayor himself is Jewish – we were left to our own devices.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday condemned those who “accept or apologize for” bigotry, but made no mention of his boss’ return to equivocal rhetoric about a white supremacist rally that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“In no way can we accept or apologize for racism, bigotry, hatred, violence and those kinds of things that too often arise in our country,” Sessions said in remarks about crime rates in sanctuary cities.

He did not mention President Donald Trump’s return Wednesday to blaming “both sides” for violence that erupted at the white supremacist rally over the weekend in a statement white supremacists praised as a step in the right direction.

FBI agents gave former Director James Comey consistently high marks in an internal survey, according to records released Wednesday, counter to President Donald Trump’s claims that he fired Comey because agents no longer had confidence in him.

The FBI released the results of its so-called “climate survey” from 2013–17 in response to a public records request filed by the New York Times.

According to Comey’s 2017 survey results, employees gave him a 4.47 rating when asked if they had “trust and confidence” in Comey as a leader, and gave him a 4.48 rating when asked if they would choose to work for him again. The FBI noted in its records release that “scores between 3.81 and 5 indicates success in those areas.”

Comey’s scores fluctuated slightly over his three-year tenure as FBI director and were at their lowest in the 2017 survey, but never dropped below the bureau’s defined range of “success.”

Comey “had no comment” for the New York Times.

When Trump abruptly fired Comey in May, he claimed Comey had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike.”

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe refuted Trump’s claim days later in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day,” McCabe said.

Comey in June offered his own stinging rebuke of Trump’s claims, which he called “lies, plain and simple” in his own testimony before the Senate panel.

“Although the law requires no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI, by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the work force had lost confidence in its leader,” Comey said. “And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I’m so sorry the American people were told them.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday said President Donald Trump’s return to equivocal rhetoric on the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was “a step backward.”

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

Graham said Trump’s remarks during an off-the-rails press conference on Tuesday suggested a “moral equivalency” between white supremacists and counter-protesters like Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car plowed into protesters.

“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. “I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency.”

Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel on Wednesday awkwardly defended President Donald Trump’s two-day-late condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but broke from the White House line blaming “both sides” for violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Well, the President condemned the white supremacists and the KKK and the neo-Nazis unequivocally,” McDaniel said on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”

“But it took 48 hours for him to do that,” David Muir pointed out.

“But he did it, and he should have and he did. And our party has across the board said this is unacceptable,” McDaniel said. “We have no place in our party at all for KKK, anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry. It has no place in the Republican party. There is no home here. We don’t want your vote. We don’t support you.”

McDaniel said it was “the beginning of what needs to be a larger conversation.”

“We are seeing this rhetoric ramp up, we are seeing more violence, and we need to take a stand against it,” she said. “When it comes to Charlottesville, the blame lays squarely at the KKK and the white supremacists who organized this rally and put together an entire event around hate and bigotry.”

“So you disagree with the President,” Muir pressed.

“I am saying the President did the right thing condemning it. I’m saying absolutely the events that transpired in Charlottesville were initiated by this white supremacist, KKK rally. It would not have happened if those people had not come together in hate. And there were peaceful protesters who did the right thing coming out against it,” McDaniel said. “I don’t think comparing blame works in this situation because we know what initiated the violence.”

Trump on Tuesday returned to his previous rhetoric blaming “both sides” for violence at the white supremacist rally, a flourish hailed by white supremacists as implicit support for their cause.

The Atlantic reported on Wednesday that the White House sent Republican members of Congress a memo asking them to defend Trump as “entirely correct” in his call for the “end of violence on all sides.”

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, on Wednesday tweeted a collage of photos of himself standing next to black people as purported evidence that he is not “racist” for supporting Trump.

“As the son of a holocaust survivor, I have no tolerance for racism,” Cohen tweeted. “Just because I support [Trump] doesn’t make me a racist.”

Cohen posted the tweet as his boss faced wide backlash from all corners (except those occupied by white supremacists) for his return to equivocal rhetoric blaming “both sides” for violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In response to TPM’s email asking what the collage was supposed to prove and why he posted the tweet when he did, Cohen wrote, “All morning I am receiving horrific comments about being anti-black, racist, etc.. for supporting Trump. It’s just wrong!”

Cohen said he knows Trump “and his heart” and claimed the President “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.”

“Trump is not a racist and neither am I,” he wrote. “I emphatically denounce white supremacy, white nationalism, nazi beliefs and hatred of anyone based on race, religion, creed, color or sexual orientation.”

New York magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi tweeted sections of what appeared to be her text messages with Cohen regarding his tweet, some of which Cohen appeared to quote directly in his email to TPM.

White supremacists on Tuesday praised President Donald Trump for his return to equivocal rhetoric blaming “both sides” for violence that erupted over the weekend at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

White supremacist leader Richard Spencer praised Trump’s statement, made during an off-the-rails press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan, as “fair and down to earth.”

After Trump read a curt statement Monday denouncing white supremacists and hate groups by name, Spencer insisted he wasn’t being “serious,” and celebrated his reversal on Tuesday.

“Trump cares about the truth,” he tweeted.

Bradley Dean Griffin, a white nationalist who blogs under the pen name “Hunter Wallace” at Occidental Dissent, said Trump’s amended rhetoric was “better.”

“The facts about must be filtering out now,” he tweeted. “He is all over the place but this is much better.”

Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer was not available on Tuesday after it was booted off several web hosting services and moved to the so-called Dark Web, part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines.

According to the Chicago Tribune, it nevertheless weighed in with an article titled, “Trump Defends Charlottesville Nazis Against Jew Media Lies, Condemns Antifa Terrorists.”