President Trump offered an angry defense of his stance on white supremacist and “alt-right” activists Tuesday, echoing racist talking points and lashing out at what he called the “alt-left” in a contentious press conference.
Speaking to reporters at Trump Tower, the president emphatically backtracked from his Monday statements blaming extreme white nationalist groups for the violence in Charlottesville, and placed equal responsibility on liberal counter-demonstrators.
“You had some very bad people in that group,” Trump said of the white supremacists. “But you also had people very fine people on both sides.”
He noted that the rally was called for what he suggested was a noble cause of defending Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue from being removed.
“You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of - to them - a very, very important statue,” he said.
Adopting a narrative of white supremacists, Trump then rhetoricallly asked whether statues of iconic American heroes George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should also be removed because they too were slave owners.
In a series of testy exchanges with reporters, Trump expanded on the idea that counter-protesters share equal responsibility for the violence.
“What about the Alt-Left that came charging at - what you say - the Alt-Right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands?”
“Do they have any problem?” he angrily asked. “I think they do.”