Trump defends "many sides'" response to Charlotesville, blames "alt-left"


Trump Says ‘Alt-Left’ Shares Blame for Charlottesville Rally Violence

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday that the counter-protesters demonstrating against white nationalism were also to blame for the violence at race-fueled riots in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

“There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story,” the president said at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

He also said the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville was "very important" to the people who participated in the march, and asked whether opponents of such monuments were also prepared to take down statues to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they, too, owned slaves.

"I wonder is it George Washington next?" he asked.

His remarks double down on his remarks Saturday, threatening to undo any goodwill the president received by denouncing the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis during a statement at the White House on Monday. The president was criticized for what many, including politicians on both sides of the aisle, saw as an initially tepid response in which he said “many sides” were to blame for the violence that killed one woman and injured 19 other people.

Trump defended the 48 hour delay Tuesday, saying he “wanted to know the facts” before condemning the white nationalists. He then equated the white supremacists on the right to the “alt-left.”

"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,” Trump said.

Trump said those protesting the white nationalists “came charging with clubs in hands” and repeatedly said they did not have a permit to be there.

Image: President Trump answers questions about his response to the events in Charlottesville in New York
President Donald Trump answers questions about Charlottesville as he talks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Aug. 15, 2017. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
The president also called the suspect who is believed to have driven his car into the group of counter-protesters “a murderer” for the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

"You can call it terrorism, you can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want," he said. "The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing."

Former KKK leader David Duke tweeted thanks to Trump for his comments.

"Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and other lawmakers, swiftly condemned Trump's comments.

“From the beginning, President Trump has sheltered and encouraged the forces of bigotry and discrimination. We have seen the manifestation of this behavior in the hiring of White House staff members, but also in the unmistakable conduct of his Administration toward immigrants, Muslims, and communities of color," she said in a statement. “There is only one side to be on when a white supremacist mob brutalizes and murders in America. The American people deserve a president who understands that.”