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‘We Are One People.’ Trump Shifts Tone to Unity Plea After Attacking Media and Opponents

August 23, 2017, 8:17 PM UTC
President Trump Holds Rally In Phoenix, Arizona
Ralph Freso Getty Images

President Donald Trump dramatically shifted tone to make a plea for national unity one day after delivering an extended diatribe against the media and political opponents.

“It is time to heal the wounds that have divided us, and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us,” the president said Wednesday at the American Legion’s annual convention in Reno, Nevada. “We are one people, with one home, and one great flag.”

The president’s remarks stood in stark contrast to his forceful defense Tuesday of his response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Addressing thousands of supporters at the Phoenix Convention Center, Trump accused media organizations of being “dishonest” and said many reporters don’t want the country to succeed.

The president on Tuesday also attacked members of his own party, mocking Arizona’s two Republican senators.

While not mentioning U.S. Senator John McCain by name, Trump criticized the Senate’s best-known veteran for his vote against health-care legislation last month.

McCain, an Arizona Republican and former Navy pilot, spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton.”

McCain was one of several Republicans who criticized Trump’s comments on Charlottesville after the president said there were good people marching alongside white supremacists at a rally that descended into violence. One counter-demonstrator was killed and 19 people were wounded.

Rabbinic bodies representing the Reform Jewish Movement, Reconstructionist Jewish Movement and Conservative Jewish Movement issued a letter Wednesday saying that in response to Trump’s Charlottesville remarks this year they won’t organize a traditional annual conference call for the president to offer greetings to American rabbis for the Jewish high holidays.

The rabbinic groups said in the letter that Trump’s remarks were “so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year.”

Top officers in the U.S. military, which often celebrates its successful desegregation in 1948, have condemned the extremists in Charlottesville without criticizing their commander-in-chief.

“The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks,” General Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, said in one such tweet on Aug 16, amid the uproar over Trump’s comments. “It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.”