'That statement is so weak’: David Gergen brutally hammers Trump response to neo-Nazi supporters
David Gergen (CNN)

A white nationalist conferenced headed by Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer that took place over the weekend in DC was the talk of CNN on Monday night.


During Don Lemon's panel, he brought the discussion to his guests. Lemon introduced the conversation as one about the alt-right's conference, though was quick to suggest that the term is really a signifier for white supremacists who have just rebranded.

The Trump team released a statement in response to the clip of white nationalists chanting, "Heil Trump, Heil our people, Heil Victory," stating that the President-Elect denounces racism and that he will be a leader for "every American." The statement also suggested, "to think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement."

Former White House staff assistant David Gergen called out Trump's statement as weak. He said, "Donald Trump is trying to have it both ways here. I don't think he'll be successful. On one hand, he puts out statements denying there's any racism, sexism or any other things we all find so abhorrent in his administration."

"And thank goodness," he continued. "We want presidents to do that. But on the other hand he's appointed Steve Bannon as one of the most powerful people in the White House, one of the most powerful people in Washington, whose previous company ... Breitbart, he said that it was the main platform for alt-right."

Gergen wasn't finished, however. He said, "Now here comes alt-right, and we see their true colors, they have this conference in Washington. It's overtly racist, it's overtly anti-Jewish, it's anti-Semitic, it's overtly against women. And it is overtly white supremacist."

Washington Post political reporter Philip Bump chimed in on the conversation. He said, Trump is trying to have "folks who are enthusiastic supporters of his, and not slap them on the hand too hard, but still have them be part of what it is he's doing."

"That statement is so weak," he said. "This from a guy who spent months railing against Hillary Clinton for not saying 'radical Islamic terrorism,' can't come out and say, 'Those racist Nazis that were just in DC, that's not me, stay away from me.'"

RealClearPolitics writer Rebecca Berg noted that this is absolutely an important conversation to be having, however, that this is just a small share of Trump's support base. "That's an important point to make," she said.

"We haven't expected Barack Obama to come out as president every time one of his supporters says something hateful and address that," Berg continued. "I'm not sure we can expect that of President-Elect Trump every time a room of a few dozen people says something hateful like this."

Gergen, angered by the matter added, "Listen, I respect what Rebecca said — most of what she said. But the fact is, that Mr. Bannon represents and has sent out a lot of signals to people, as someone you should be scared of, as someone who supports policies that are going to represent this administration."

"When the alt-right is taken as seriously as it is, and we begin to normalize this conversation, to say, 'it's all right to do Neo-Nazi kind of rhetoric and we're just going to accept it, it's part of who we are as Americans.' No, it is not all right to be Neo-Nazi in this country."

Gergen cautioned, "If we're going to raise those spectres, just remember when people didn't rise up against the Nazis."

Watch the full clip below.