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Trump repeats ‘both sides’ to blame for protest violence

Trump doubles-down on controversial weekend comments, undermining Monday’s rebuke of far-right groups


 

NEW YORK – President Donald Trump defiantly blamed “both sides” for the weekend violence between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators in Virginia, seeking to rebuff the widespread criticism of his handling of the emotionally-charged protests while showing sympathy for the fringe group’s efforts to preserve Confederate monuments.

In doing so, Trump used the bullhorn of the presidency to give voice to the grievances of white nationalists, and aired some of his own. His remarks Tuesday amounted to a rejection of the Republicans, business leaders and White House advisers who earlier this week had pushed the president to more forcefully and specifically condemn the KKK members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who took to the streets of Charlottesville.

The angry exchange with reporters at his skyscraper hotel in New York City laid bare a reality of the Trump presidency: Trump cannot be managed by others or steered away from damaging political land mines. His top aides were stunned by his comments, with some – including new chief of staff John Kelly – standing by helplessly as the president escalated his rhetoric.

Standing in the lobby of Trump Tower, Trump acknowledged that there were “some very bad people” among those who gathered to protest Saturday. But he added: “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

RELATED: Democracy can’t be taken for granted. Charlottesville proves that.

The rally was organized by white supremacists and other groups under a “Unite the Right” banner. Organizers said they were initially activated by their objections to the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but the larger aim was to protest what they saw as an “anti-white” climate in America.

In his remarks, Trump condemned bigoted ideology and called James Alex Fields Jr., who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protester killing a 32-year-old woman, “a disgrace to himself, his family and his country.” But Trump also expressed support for those seeking to maintain the monument to Lee, equating him with some of the nation’s founders who also owned slaves.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” he said. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, ‘is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?’ You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

He continued: “You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”

The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House a day earlier when he branded the white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.” Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell criticism of his initial response, but the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort.

MORE: It wasn’t a lone, unusual flare-up. Charlottesville really is America.

Once again, the blowback was swift, including from fellow Republicans. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Trump should not allow white supremacists “to share only part of the blame.” House Speaker Paul Ryan declared in a tweet that “white supremacy is repulsive” and there should be “no moral ambiguity,” though he did not specifically address the president.

Trump’s remarks were welcomed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

Some of the president’s comments Tuesday mirrored rhetoric from the far-right fringe. A post Monday by the publisher of The Daily Stormer, a notorious neo-Nazi website, predicted that protesters are going to demand that the Washington Monument be torn down.

Trump’s handling of the weekend violence has raised new and troubling questions, even among some supporters. Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

Members of white nationalists clash against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Members of white nationalists clash against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

White House officials were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. He had signed off on a plan to ignore questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policies, according to a White House official not authorized to speak publicly about a private discussion. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, he overruled the decision.

As Trump talked, his aides on the sidelines in the lobby stood in silence. Chief of staff John Kelly crossed his arms and stared down at his shoes, barely glancing at the president. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders looked around the room trying to make eye contact with other senior aides. One young staffer stood with her mouth agape.

Kelly was brought into the White House less than a month ago to try to bring order and stability to a chaotic West Wing. Some Trump allies hoped the retired Marine general might be able to succeed where others have failed: controlling some of Trump’s impulses. But the remarks Tuesday once again underscored Trump’s insistence on airing his complaints and opinions.

Democrats were aghast at Trump’s comments. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said on Twitter that the Charlottesville violence “was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said on Twitter that he no longer views Trump as his president.

“As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment,” Schatz said. “This is not my president.”

MORE: This is the real Donald Trump, loud and clear

When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

Trump, who has quickly deemed other deadly incidents in the U.S. and around the world as acts of terrorism, waffled when asked whether the car death was a terrorist attack.

“There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism?” Trump said. “And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”

Trump said he had yet to call the mother of crash victim Heather Heyer, but would soon “reach out.” He praised her for what he said was a nice statement about him on social media.

As he finally walked away from his lectern, he stopped to answer one more shouted question: Would he visit Charlottesville? The president noted he owned property there and said – inaccurately – that it was one of the largest wineries in the United States.

AP writers Darlene Superville and Richard Lardner contributed to this report. Pace reported from Washington.

This post has been updated.

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Trump repeats ‘both sides’ to blame for protest violence

  1. Once again, the child insists it’s all about him:
    “He praised her for what he said was a nice statement about him on social media.”
    Do us a favour Mrs. Heyer … hang up on him if he calls.

    • Heather Heyer’s mother’s name is Susan Bro. Chances of POTUS calling her are slim to none, but I quite agree she should hang up on him, especially after his latest press conference.

  2. Racism exists. Get over it.

    Do you want to seek out racists, go where they are, shout at and fight with them?

    Then when you get killed, who could think you weren’t partly to blame?

    Trump is simply calling a spade a spade and they don’t like it.

    • I hope you were not using “spade” intentionally ….

      • What makes you think I care what you hope for?

        • I feel sorry for you and your anger and hatred. Musty be very hard living with those feelings. You should seek professional help.

          • You’re projecting again.

    • One of the most asinine comments I’ve come across yet; you’re justifying murder, you twit.

      • If you walked into a black lives matter rally, calling everyone there n..gers would you be partially to blame for provoking the illegal treatment you receive?

        You would be the twit.

        Those anti-racist protesters went to a racist rally to cause trouble.

        They succeeded and someone died as a result.

        Perhaps you advocate violent public confrontations between groups that disagree.

        Maybe that’s what you call democracy.

        • If I did something that stupid, it still wouldn’t be justification for someone to kill me. The fact that you can’t wrap your bigoted head around that just shows how obtuse you are.

          And no, not once did I advocate for violent public confrontations. Get your head out of your ass.

          Everything else you’ve written amounts to nothing more than a pathetic attempt at deflecting from your core premise: That it’s ok for people to commit murder.

  3. NY Times reporter Sheryl Stolberg.

    A few wrap-it-up thoughts from Charlottesville: 1. Striking how many of the white nationalists were young people, almost entirely men,” she wrote in a series of tweets Sunday. ”
    2. The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park[.]
    3. Among my unanswered questions: police response. Why did things get out of hand so quickly? Could violence have been prevented?”

    • The mayor held the police & National Guard back, a regular occurrence when Antifa shows up to do what they are paid to do. Same in Seattle.

  4. The fact remains that freedom of speech is a constitutional right.

    Obstructing free speech with violent confrontations isn’t.

    The choice to march into violence to oppose free speech, even when you don’t like what is being said, will always be wrong.

    If I disagree with what you say I will use logic and science to expose your lies in a civilized way. I encourage you to be wrong, a useful idiot.

    Propaganda is as work here. The issue has been made emotional and people have swallowed it. The fact that the racists had a right to speak doesn’t matter. The propaganda message is that it’s ok to violate the rights of those that you disagree with. Slippery slope.

    • I hope you are not a Canadian … you definitely sound like a racist, violent, narrow minded, psycho. Definitely not Canadian… maybe a North Korean or South African pinhead.

      • Time to expose another useful idiot to ridicule.

        What is it about my comment that you disagree with?

        Is it that free speech is a constitutional right?

        Is it that obstructing free speech isn’t?

        Is it that it’s wrong to teach children to pick up a weapon and attack those whose words you disagree with?

        Is it that the civilized way to confront lies is with free speech, science and logic?

        Is it that propaganda is unethical and wrong?

        Eh?

        • Take your medication and turn out the lights.

          • Is this another Emiloony sock-puppet account?

  5. Again, voting in an old racist who can’t keep up with the times (except he Tweets. Big hairy deal) gives you ignorant statements. Why is anyone still surprised? He made it perfectly clear what he thought while on the campaign trail. He repeated, “I’m not joking, folks” over and over and over. He isn’t a leopard who will change his spots. He’s a scorpion who can’t change his nature.

    FTR, those standing up to those idiots in their pleated khakis, black belts and polo shirts (which look exactly like what 45 wears when golfing.. guess they have a new uniform now…) weren’t ‘violent protestors’. They were standing there, protesting Nazi white supremacy. It’s illegal in Germany to make Nazi salutes or say the words which I refuse to even write out. Illegal where it started in the late ’30’s. Why would it be acceptable to do it here?

    I fought for your right to disagree. I fought for your right to free speech. I did NOT fight for you to spew hatred and kill innocent people walking down the street.

    Just as racists are ‘free’ to shout their epithets and scream their white privilege all over the place, those of us who oppose that are ‘free’ to shout back and stand up against their b.s. Saying they’re to blame for getting run over by some moron or hit in the head is ridiculous. We’ve turned into a society looking for someone to blame for everything. Personal responsibility has gone in favour of litigation. There is no one to ‘blame’ – there are only personal choices and the consequences to those actions.

    “Free speech” does not absolve you of the consequences of your actions. If you’re a dirtbag, you’re going to be called out on it.

    • Reading between the lines, you seem to be saying, incorrectly, that President Trump “is to blame”?

      • He has opened the door for the alt right with his comments – gestures about Mexicans, Muslims, the handicapped, , etc.

  6. The whole “Us VS Them” dichotomy is the first step toward dehumanization & genocide.
    Enjoy the decline, shills!

  7. There is no weapon like the mass media. Even stronger than any military. It will be impossible for Trump to out spin the media that will blame him for everything he does or says, the spin of the media will always have the last word.
    But the mass media is just one of the many weapons of the Deep State.
    What is the Deep State?
    That is the result of the many exercises done over the years by CIA and other Agencies under the COG or Continuity Of Government (one of these exercise in Europe was called Stay Behind).
    Stability is what they call “National Security” and …. in the name of that anything is allowed, even false flag attacks.
    The Deep State is then the realization that after all is said and done it is enough for only One person to be the head of all.

    But today you will hear the same laughs you probably heard from the same people back in February 19 2003 when all US citizens were asked to buy duct tapes to seal their windows in case of chemical attacks. The same Bushes that have turned the World upside down plotting 9/11, monitoring everyone and putting all Countries at war now they come to scold Donald Trump in the name of Equality.

    It really is a World run by Deception.
    It is the Deep State led by George Bush.
    It is time to understand what is happening before their next surprise.
    Although, if the World really needs to change it could also change for the better and not just for the worse.
    As long as people start to talk and think for a Solution.

    http://www.wavevolution.org/en/freethinking.html

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