At a Trump Tower press conference held Tuesday afternoon that was supposed to focus on infrastructure, President Trump addressed the tragedy in Charlottesville. He claimed he waited 48 hours to condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists after the deadly rally over the weekend because he wanted "all of the facts" about the fatal incident before suggesting that the "alt-left" was just as much to blame for Saturday's violence.
After announcing he'd signed an executive order streamlining permitting processes for federal highways, Trump was asked a question about the executives who have been resigning from his manufacturing council in light of his failure to speedily condemn white nationalism.
The president claimed that actually, the executives from companies like Merck and Under Armour left the council out of embarrassment over their own actions, because he'd been lecturing them on making their goods overseas. Reporters then began asking Trump about why it took two days for him to explicitly condemn white supremacists, which is where the press conference went off the rails.
Trump claimed he wanted to know "all the facts" about Saturday's fatal rally that ended with a hit-and-run allegedly committed by a member of the white supremacist organization American Vanguard. He also re-read his statement from Saturday without including the "on many sides" section that caused some initial controversy.
Trump, under intense questioning from gathered reporters, returned to his "on many sides" equivocating for the rest of the press conference.
"What about the alt-left?" Trump asked reporters, who pressed him about violence by white supremacists. "They came charging with clubs in their hands, do they have any responsibility?"
Pres. Trump on Charlottesville: "You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent" pic.twitter.com/Ulb6xNAZYi
— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2017
Trump also suggested that not every right-wing marcher on Saturday was a white supremacist, suggesting that "you had fine people on both sides" of the weekend rallies. A number of participants just wanted to "protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee," according to Trump.
"Do you support the Confederacy?" a reporter shouted in the middle of the circus-like atmosphere, a question Trump chose not to answer.
The president also specifically brought up Friday night's rally, in which torch-bearing white supremacists chanted fascist slogans like "Blood and soil" and "You will not replace us." Trump claimed that those marchers, who assaulted counter-protesters surrounding the Lee statue "were protesting quietly."
Trump repeatedly claimed that left-wing protesters were interrupting a permitted march in Charlottesville, and also repeatedly suggested that "people still don't know all of the facts" about what took place on Saturday in Virginia.
"I tell you this, there are two sides to a story, to what took place there," Trump insisted to reporters.
In response to the press conference, the Anne Frank Center directly called the president "a sympathizer of neo-Nazi white supremacists."
— Anne Frank Center (@AnneFrankCenter) August 15, 2017
On the other hand, he was praised for his "bravery and honesty" by David Duke.
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 15, 2017
Many sides indeed.