US President Donald Trump has denounced the driver of the car that smashed into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. He also defended his top adviser Steve Bannon and challenged media for not reporting on the violence fully.
Trump, who was in New York to announce a new executive initiative on infrastructure, took questions from the media about Saturday’s events in Charlottesville, when one person was killed and 19 were injured when a car reportedly driven by one of the participants in the right-wing rally ran into a crowd.
“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that the statement I made was correct,” Trump said, when reporters asked him why he waited until Monday to denounce neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan members present at the rally.
“Unlike you, unlike the media, before I make a statement I like to know the facts,” he added.
Trump described Heather Heyer, who was killed in the incident, as “an incredible young woman,” and the driver of the car as “a disgrace to himself, his family and his country.”
“The driver of the car is a murderer, and what he did is a horrible, inexcusable thing,” the president added.
Asked about his chief strategist Stephen Bannon, whom the Democrats and some media have accused of supporting white nationalism, the president called him a friend.
“He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good person,” Trump said.
“I think the press treats him very unfairly.”
The conference became heated when reporters asked Trump about the “alt-right.” The president pointed out that many of the counter-protesters were armed, violent, and did not have a permit to gather or march, unlike the right-wing rally that opposed the decision to remove a monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
“Not all of those people were neo-Nazis. Not all of those people were white supremacists,” Trump told reporters.
“I think there’s blame on both sides.
I have no doubt about it, and you have no doubt about it either.”
“How about the Alt-Left that came charging at as you say the Alt Right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands … do they have any problem?
You had a group on the other side that came charging without a permit, and they were very, very violent.”
The president also objected to the push to take down Confederate monuments as “changing history.”
— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2017
Launching into yet another fiery exchange, Trump then slammed at the process of tearing down monuments and defended those protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. last week, asking rhetorically
“George Washington was a slaveowner…
Are we going to take down statues to George Washington?”
“How about Thomas Jefferson? He was a major slave owner.”
Speaking of the protesters, Trump said “they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee”, then proceeding to equate the confederate general to presidents Washington and Jefferson: “This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop.”
President Trump: "George Washington was a slave owner… Are we gonna take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?" pic.twitter.com/bUJnbaniwL
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 15, 2017
Following of the Charlottesville incident, several cities said they would remove statues of Confederate soldiers and leaders. Protesters have also started fighting to tear down such statues, including the statue of “Stonewall” Jackson in Charleston, W.V. Demonstrators tore down a Confederate statue on Monday night.
He followed up by saying “You’re changing history, you’re changing culture”.
Trump: "You're changing history, you're changing culture" pic.twitter.com/37tb0rGNLA
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) August 15, 2017