CP photo by Rebecca Addison
Bob Casey at today's Facebook event in Pittsburgh
At an event in Pittsburgh earlier today, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) called President Donald Trump's comments in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Va., offensive. Trump's latest round of comments, which have angered many over the past 24 hours, equivocated the groups who clashed in Charlottesville over the weekend. On one side were neo-Nazis, white nationalists and the Ku Klux Klan; on the other, those who oppose them.
"We have to not only speak out against that kind of hate speech and that kind of activity, we've got to mobilize against it," Casey said. "There's no equivalence of any kind between what one group was doing there and those who were opposing it. Those who were opposing it had a very important point to make. This is America, and we don't tolerate bigotry and racism in the United States of America. And for the president to excuse that by way of a false-equivalency analysis was particularly offensive to me."
Trump's most recent comments mirror those he first made in response to Charlottesville, on Sat., Aug. 12, after the violence left 3 dead and dozens injured. "I think there is blame on both sides," he said yesterday, adding that there are "very fine people on both sides.”
"I was raised to believe that a fine person is someone who would not cower at racism or appeals to racism, bigotry and the kind of horrific, divisive rhetoric we've heard by those individuals," Casey said. "All you have to do is look at the video of what they were saying as they're marching and what they were doing. Someone was actually killed by an automobile. It's domestic terrorism. It's another reminder that not only do we have this in our society, but now we have to put pressure on the president, the commander and chief of our armed forces, push back against what he's saying. I never though we'd see this."
Casey was in town partly to speak at a Facebook event for small businesses. Pittsburgh City Paper
took the opportunity to ask Casey about protests originally planned for Saturday at Google offices in cities including Pittsburgh.
The events have been postponed, but according to the organizer's website, the #MarchOnGoogle
is in response to Google "abusing its power to silence dissent and manipulate election results," and Google's company YouTube "censoring and silencing dissenting voices."
While free speech is protected under the First Amendment, CP
asked Casey if this applies to virtual spaces like YouTube and Facebook and private employers like Google. The Google protests were spurred after a Google employee was fired for circulating an anti-diversity memo
"There are lines you can draw even in the context of First Amendment protections," Casey said. "You've got to be able to draw lines that even our Supreme Court has drawn, You have the right to free speech, but you don't have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. Just like any right, there are appropriate limitations that we've arrived at. Those are the questions these companies have to ask about what they are allowing on their websites."
In his opening remarks at the Facebook event, Casey talked about the challenges facing small businesses, including inequality, especially as it relates to technology. According to Casey, 20 percent of rural Pennsylvania doesn't have access to high-speed internet or broadband.
"Just imagine what it's like trying to grow a business, or to be a child in school, trying to get ahead and learn," Casey said. "It's pretty hard to do that when you don't have access to broadband."
In closing, Casey called on those in attendance to look beyond simply what the president says or doesn't say, and focus on issues like health care, infrastructure and tax reform.
"We are in a very difficult period now in our nation's history," said Casey. "We're going to need your help. We're going to need your know-how and your ability to think and innovate. We're going to need your engagement in politics and public affairs. I'm grateful that Facebook allows folks to stay engaged in public issues and public debate."