It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump has been bristling about the coverage of his extremely late, half-hearted condemnation of the far-right rally in Charlottesville which left one dead and multiple injured.
Speaking to reporters at Trump Tower, Donald went wildly off script, arguing that the mayhem on Saturday was caused by both sides, and blamed the ‘alt-left’ for initiating violence.
Omg. Trump: “What about the alt-left that came charging at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) August 15, 2017
Trump claimed that the Unite the Right protesters – which was largely comprised of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and alt-right types – “had a permit” while the counter-protesters did not.
Walking back his earlier condemnations, Trump returned to claiming that it was a problem on both sides:
I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent.
And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
“I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said during his remarks.
“You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides.”
Trump “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists.” (aia ABC) pic.twitter.com/AhmAdo8xM6
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 15, 2017
He also defended the reason for the right-wing protest – the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee – who rebelled against the United States to preserve the institution of slavery. Trump sparred with journalists, implicitly agreeing with the protesters that the statue ought not be removed:
Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
He was also asked whether or not the death of Heather Heyer was an act of terrorism, but declined to make a statement either way. He did however remind the crowd of journalists that Heyer’s mother had thanked him for his remarks on the attack, while also confirming that he had not reached out to the family at all.
Well, the President of the United States seems pretty happy to reflexively defend a white supremacist rally even when it is not politically expedient for him to do so. Wonderful times!