President Donald Trump said there “was blame on both sides” for Saturday’s violent Charlottesville rally as he defended his initial statement casting the blame “on many sides.” He answered impromptu questions during a planned infrastructure press conference Tuesday.
Trump fielded widespread criticism over his initial statement on the rally that left one woman dead and 20 other people injured when protesters and counterprotesters clashed. Critics blasted the president for not explicitly using the words “white nationalists,” “white supremacists” and “neo-Nazis” in his first statement. In response, Trump issued a second statement Monday in which he explicitly called out and denounced those specific groups.
But Tuesday the president doubled down on the initial statement during a question-and-answer session at the press conference, which was supposed to be focused on infrastructure. He defended the delay in specifically denouncing white supremacists by name.
“Here’s the thing: When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts,” Trump said. “But honestly, if the press were not fake, and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike … the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”
“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct — not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement,” he added. “But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts.”
The president also vocally condemned the car driver who plowed into a group of people and killed a woman.
“I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family, and his country. And that is — you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want,” Trump said. “The driver of the car is a murderer, and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”
Insisting that he’d “do it the same way” all over again if he could turn back time and deliver his initial statement, the president accused the media of turning a blind eye to far-left groups that contributed to the violence in Charlottesville.
“What about the Alt-Left that came charging at the — as you say, the Alt-Right — do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked reporters. “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. So you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.”
“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,” he added. “I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either … and if you reported it accurately, you would see.”
“You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs, and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch,” Trump said. “But there is another side.”
The president also asked the media to acknowledge that not every protester who showed up to decry the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville was a “neo-Nazi” or a “white supremacist.”
“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” Trump said. “And you take a look at some of the groups and you see — and you know it if you are honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not — but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.”
The president also warned that the leftist protesters will not stop merely with clamoring for the removal of statues and monuments commemorating Confederate heroes during the Civil War period.
“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” Trump said. “You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
“You’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly,” he added. “Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people. But you also had troublemakers.”
“There are two sides to a story,” Trump said. “I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country.”