Reported By Jonathan Easley – 08/15/17 04:37 PM EDT
President Trump on Tuesday said there is “blame on both sides” for the violent protests over the weekend in Charlottesville, remarks that are sure to inflame his critics and reignite debate over his hesitance to condemn white nationalists and racists.
Trump conducted an impromptu press conference at Trump Tower that was meant to focus on infrastructure, but he faced a barrage of questions from reporters about why he did not immediately condemn racist protesters and the KKK by name.
In his initial remarks this weekend, Trump condemned violence “on many sides,” provoking furious blowback from Democrats, the media and some conservatives.
On Tuesday, Trump doubled down, saying there is “blame on both sides.”
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the — as you say, the alt-right?” Trump asked. “Do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I am concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.”
One woman died and at least 19 people were injured after a driver with alleged ties to white supremacists rammed his car into counterprotesters in Charlottesville.
“I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it,” Trump said. “And 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 it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.”
In remarks on Monday, Trump specifically called out neo-Nazis and the KKK and condemned racism, but his critics have said he should have done so immediately and that he held off because he didn’t want to alienate extremist elements of his base.
On Tuesday, Trump said that not all of those attending the white nationalist “Unite the Right” protest were racists. Some, Trump said, were only there to protest the taking down of a Confederate statue.
“I have condemned neo-Nazis. I have condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” Trump said.
“Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee.”