During an impromptu news conference on Tuesday, President Trump said he has no regrets about the widely-decried statement he initially made blaming “many sides” for the white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend and resulted in the death of an innocent 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer.
Shortly after Heyer was rammed with a car driven by an alleged Nazi sympathizer on Saturday, Trump gave a statement where he blamed “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.” On Tuesday, he said he would say the same thing if he had to do it again because he had to wait for the facts to come in.
“I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct and there was no way of making a correct statement that early,” Trump said. “I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters… I didn’t know David Duke was there, I wanted to see the facts.”
Trump, however, has been very quick to ascribe blame following previous attacks, especially those perpetrated by Muslims.
Later during the news conference, Trump explicitly defended his “many sides” statements by arguing that some of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville were “fine people,” while some who gathered to protest Nazism and white supremacy came deserve blame.
“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, but there is another side,” he said. “There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group.”
Trump went on to endorse the ostensible reason for the rally, which was the planned remove of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from the spot where it has stood for about a century.
“You look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump said. “They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you have some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group… you had people in that group that were in to protest, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park.”
The comments Trump made on Tuesday completely undid any goodwill he generated the day before, when he gave a belated statement more directly denouncing “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Former KKK leader David Duke, who Trump mentioned by name, applauded Trump’s comments.
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 15, 2017