HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bob McDermott, candidate for Hawaii governor, is sticking up for President Trump as the commander-in-chief takes heat for his remarks over the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend.
The latest flashpoint is sparked by the President's combative news conference on Tuesday.
"I don't think he's a racist. I'm certain he's not a racist. But it's easy to call him that," said Republican State Representative Bob McDermott.
White nationalists, along with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, who were protesting the removal of a Confederate monument during a "Unite the Right" rally were met with counter-protesters when chaos erupted on Saturday. One women was killed when a car, allegedly driven by a white nationalist, plowed into a group of protesters.
"What about the 'alt-left' that came charging, as you say, at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do…I think there's blame on both sides," President Trump said in the news conference.
McDermott said President Trumps' critics are overreacting.
"Racism is bad, it's repugnant, we should all disown it, and I think he did that. The Democrats, if he doesn't tie his shoe right, he's making a mistake," McDermott said.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke thanked Trump on Tuesday for his "honesty and courage."
"How long has it taken for this country to come to the point where they realize that the KKK did not represent that which is America. And now, this president is basically opening the door to that again," said Hawaii Congresswoman Coleen Hanabusa.
Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz tweeted, "As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President."
"With regard to senator Schatz saying, 'He's not my president,' if I were to say that about Obama, Schatz would say, 'Racist,'" said McDermott.
McDermott, who is married to a Samoan woman and has eight multiracial children, said President Trump is simply misunderstood.
"I think if you're going to look for a fight, you're going to find it. I think both sides were looking for a fight, and they both found it," McDermott said.
Hawaii State House Minority Leader Andria Tupola said in a statement, "...I fully condemn white supremacy, racism, and hate. What happened in Charlottesville is a tragedy and does not reflect the values of America and the people of Hawaii..."
She did not comment on Trump's remarks.