In a Facebook post on Saturday that has since been deleted, Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh, a vocal supporter of President Trump, showed off her new purchase: a recently released book by right-wing provocateur and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza called The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left.
The post came on the same day that white supremacists bearing tiki torches wended through Charlottesville, Va., chanting "blood and soil" and waving Nazi and Confederate flags. Skirmishes broke out in the streets as the marchers clashed with counterprotesters.
One participant, James Alex Fields Jr., allegedly plowed his car into a gathering of the counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people. Fields' mother said later that she believed he was attending a Trump event, not a white supremacist march.
In an interview at her West Chester office Tuesday, Welsh said that her post was not intended to deflect criticism of the white supremacists onto those who arrived to counter them.
"It was poor timing," Welsh said.
At the time of the post, she said, she had not yet read the book.
"My intention was just to say that I had purchased the book," Welsh said. "It was not an endorsement of the book; it was not a recommendation of the book."
As the day's events unfolded and steadily became more violent, however, Welsh said she decided to take down her post to avoid the appearance of insensitivity.
"Later in the day, of course, was when the poor woman was killed in the riots," Welsh said. "In retrospect now, because people seemed to feel they were offended by the timing — and I don't disagree — I took the post down. Because I was getting a lot of negative comments; I won't even repeat what some of them were. And I felt, rather than seem insensitive, because I had purchased the book, I took the post down."
On Monday, President Trump called the hate groups out by name, after a less-pointed statement he issued on Saturday that cast blame "on many sides" was met with criticism claiming his response was too broad.
"Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs," Trump said Monday, "including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans."
At a news conference Tuesday in the lobby of Trump Tower, however, Trump doubled back to his original comments, asking why the "alt-left" doesn't share some of the blame.
"You had some very bad people in that group," Trump said. "You also had some very fine people on both sides," he said.
Welsh, who was first elected to her post in 1999, traveled to Ohio last summer to fulfill her role as a delegate at the Republican National Convention, where she cast her vote in favor of the New York real estate magnate.
As an executive committee member of the National Sheriffs' Association, Welsh paid a visit to the White House in early February with nine other sheriffs from across the country.
"They seated me right next to the president," Welsh said. "It was wonderful."
Just Monday, Welsh "liked" a Facebook post by Kevin Martin, an online political personality whom far-right radio talker Alex Jones has referred to as a "black conservative politician," that claimed the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists are not dangerous.