U.S. President Donald Trump has defended his initial comments about the violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last weekend. The rally violence left one person dead after a car barreled into counter-protesters.
On Tuesday, he repeated the sentiments he stated on the weekend, saying that both the left- and right-wing groups are to blame.
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“They came at each other with clubs … it was a horrible thing to watch,” Trump told reporters at what was supposed to be an announcement of his administration’s infrastructure policy.
When asked about the “alt-right” protesters, he countered, labelling the counter-protesters as the “alt-left”
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the alt-right, do they have any semblance of guilt?” he said.
“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 that right now. You had a group on the other side, that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent,” he continued.
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While he did say there were bad people including neo-Nazis in the “alt-right” group, he also said there were trouble makers in the left-wing group.
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“In the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers, people in black helmets with baseball bats,” he said.
Trump was widely criticized for his Saturday comments, in which he said there were “many sides” involved in the protest, instead of calling out the neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups.
On Tuesday, Trump explained his initial restrained response by saying: “The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement, but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts.”
On Monday he did condemn them, calling them repugnant.
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said from the White House.
But he seemed to go back to his original statements Tuesday when he said there is “blame on both sides,” and that some of the facts about the rally aren’t known.
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Reaction to Tuesday’s press conference has already started to come in.
While, ex-KKK leader David Duke thanked Trump for his words condemning the “leftist terrorists,” the executive director of the Anne Frank Centre for Mutual Respect called Trump out for sympathizing with “neo-Nazi white supremacists.”
“Blaming ‘both sides’ for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no,” Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said on Twitter.
*with a file from Reuters