- Associated Press - Thursday, August 17, 2017

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) - U.S. Sen. Susan Collins on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump for failing to speak forcefully against racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism “from the very beginning,” and said she doesn’t understand why he backtracked on a forceful statement against racism earlier in the week.

The Maine Republican said she’s surprised that the president suggested both sides shared blame for violence surrounding a rally featuring white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“There’s absolutely no place in this country for hatred, racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry. The president should’ve spoken out far more strongly from the very beginning,” she told a group of reporters at an event in Lewiston celebrating an L.L. Bean manufacturing expansion.

She also said racism is a concern in Maine, where Ku Klux Klan flyers were recently distributed. Some were reported the day before in Boothbay Harbor.

“We Mainers need to send a strong message that this kind of vile hatred has no place in our state, or anywhere in our country,” she said.

Collins‘ comments came after the president first suggested “many sides” were responsible for the violence Charlottesville, then clarified his remarks to repudiate white supremacists and racism before backtracking again, saying “both sides” were to blame.

Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to suggest the media was deliberately trying to make him look bad.

Collins said if the Republican president feels that his comments were misinterpreted, then “he needs to bring absolute clarity to what he says.”

“He needs to make very clear that there is no place in our country for hatred, bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and hateful ideology. We expect our presidents to lift our country up and stand for high moral standards,” she said.

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