President Donald Trump, in a staggering, impromptu news conference in New York on Tuesday, blamed the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend on both sides of the conflict — equating the white supremacists on one side with the “alt-left” on the other side — after his top White House aides spent days trying to clean up after Trump’s initial vague response to the violence.
The news conference laid bare his unvarnished view of who was to blame for the violence and what he thinks about the nationwide effort to remove statues of Confederate leaders. Trump’s comments were the latest in what has been a jaw-dropping saga ever since the President made his first vague statement on the violence, blaming the conflicts on “many sides.” The comments also made clear that Trump’s speech on Monday — which vociferously blamed the violence on the “alt-right” and neo-Nazi groups who initiated the protest — was largely a sterilized version of his view.
“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”
He added: “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”
On Saturday, as violence in Charlottesville played out on national television, Trump blamed “many sides” for the conflict. Though that answer was quickly panned by Democrats and Republicans alike, Trump remained silent on Sunday, leaving it to his aides to try to clean up his vague answer. Trump, after mounting pressure that was palpable inside the White House, spoke Monday and condemned the white supremacists and neo-Nazis at the heart of the violence.
On Tuesday, though, Trump defended his 48-hour delay in denouncing white supremacists, arguing that he took his time because he didn’t know the facts.
“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement,” Trump said, calling his initial comment a “fine statement.”
He added: “I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement.”
The President subsequently called the driver of the car that drove through a crowd, killing one woman, a “murderer” then once again blamed both sides for the violence.