President Donald Trump went back to blaming both sides for Saturday’s deadly racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Monday’s statement in which he condemned the neo-Nazis and white separatists, but made no mention of counterprotesters.
Trump stood in the lobby of his New York office tower Tuesday to talk about rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.
But the news conference quickly turned into a shouting match between the president and reporters demanding to know why it took him two days to use the words neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists.
Trump’s critics say the first statement he made was weak and failed to condemn the white supremacists by name while saying all sides were responsible for the violence.
Watch: Trump Blames Both Sides for Racial Violence at Virginia Rally
Trump said he wanted all the facts first.
“The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. ... I like to be correct. ... And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice.”
After more comments to reporters about “fake news,” Trump appeared to lose his patience, accusing what he called the “alt-left” of “violently attacking the other group” with clubs. He said the counterprotesters had no permit to be there.
“I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it,” he said.
Comments bring condemnation
Some reporters who were in Charlottesville say nearly every one of the white supremacists was armed with some kind of weapon while counterprotesters were generally unarmed, noting a number of college students and clergymen were among them.
As with Trump’s statement Saturday, his comments Tuesday brought almost universal condemnation from lawmakers in both political parties.
On Twitter, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said: “There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so.”
Fellow Republican, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida tweeted: “Blaming ‘both sides’ for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.’’
Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat of Virginia, tweeted, “Charlottesville violence was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.”
Fellow Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said “The President of the United States just defended neo-Nazis and blamed those who condemn their racism and hate. This is sick.’’
Not outright defense
Trump stopped short of outright defending the far-right marchers but said not all of them were neo-Nazis and white nationalists. He said some were “very fine people” who the press has treated “absolutely unfairly.”
He said they came to Charlottesville to protest the city’s plans to tear down a statue of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
He dodged a reporter’s question on whether he believes the Lee statue should remain, calling it a local matter. But he said George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — both regarded as American heroes and progressives — were slave owners and wondered if their statues need to be taken down, too.
Trump called the Nazi sympathizing driver who is charged with killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer with his car a “murderer ... a disgrace to himself and to the country.” He said Heyer was a “fantastic, fine, incredible young woman.”
He said job creation is one solution to overcome racism, saying people want great jobs with good pay.