August 17, 2017

The raging political argument over President Donald Trump’s response to the violence that erupted at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville began Wednesday to seep into Nebraska’s upcoming 2018 congressional races.

While Rep. Jeff Fortenberry condemned in particular “the vile, racist protests and murder perpetrated by the despicable KKK, Nazis and other white nationalist groups,” Democratic challenger Dennis Crawford criticized the Lincoln congressman on Facebook for his late response.

Although Rep. Don Bacon said he “hate(s) all racism and find(s) Nazis, white nationalists and all bigots repugnant,” former Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford of Omaha said the congressman failed to “tell the president that you are wrong” in suggesting a moral equivalency between the demonstrators and protesters on opposite sides of the Charlottesville event.

“There are specific times when one must make a stand and tell the president that you are wrong,” Ashford said.

Crawford had leveled his criticism at Fortenberry before the congressman responded to the event, suggesting that “Mr. Fortenberry is a moral coward.”

“As your representative in Congress, I can guarantee you that I would stand up to and speak out against racism, anti-Semitism, white nationalism and hate,” Crawford said.

After directing his criticism specifically at the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and white nationalists, Fortenberry added: “While the most heinous forms of speech and assembly are protected by the First Amendment, these rights must always be balanced with obligations.

“Violence is never acceptable,” the congressman said.

Bacon said he “despise(s) the violence that is so rampant in our society,” not only the racist violence that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, but also the political violence that resulted in the shooting of Republican Rep. Steve Scalise in suburban Washington.

“Eradicating racism and bigotry shouldn’t be a divisive political issue, but one we all should get behind and support,” Bacon said.