- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Wednesday called it an “act of terror” for a car to be driven into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Virginia, but the Tennessee Republican declined to weigh in on President Donald Trump’s comments blaming both white supremacists and counter-protesters for violent clashes.

Corker said he will leave it to others to weigh in on Trump’s comments showing sympathy for fringe groups’ efforts to preserve Confederate monuments. But the senator did renew his call for removing the bust of early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee Capitol, saying he would prefer the bust of the slave trader and Confederate cavalry general be moved to a museum.

“People come to our Capitol to debate ideals and aspirations for our state, and to have a symbol like that that is offensive to people probably doesn’t engender the kind of spirit you’d like to have here,” he said. “Obviously it’s part of our history, and that’s what museums are for.”

Throngs of Ku Klux Klan members, skinheads and various white nationalist factions came to Charlottesville, Virginia, ostensibly to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. One woman died when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist rally.

“Obviously people have First Amendment rights - as long as they’re peaceful,” Corker said. “But to have someone who drives a car down the middle of a crowd - killing, maiming innocent people? In our nation it is an act of terror and needs to be stopped.”

Trump has been widely criticized since insisting that “both sides” were to blame for the racially charged violence. Corker declined to answer reporters’ questions about the president’s comments after Chamber of Commerce speeches in Sevierville and Knoxville on Wednesday.

“Look, I let the president’s comments speak for themselves,” he said. “There are plenty of people who editorialize about those, I’m responsible for my comments and how I feel.”

For his part, Corker said he was not interested in trying to compare the actions of the various groups involved in the clash.

“I thought what happened - what was on display with the white supremacists and the KKK and others - was reprehensible,” Corker said.

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