After largely sticking to the script on Monday, President Donald Trump "showed his true colors" once again at an impromptu press conference Tuesday at Trump Tower, where he suggested that white supremacists and counter demonstrators were both to blame for the deadly violence that broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, and argued that torch-wielding neo-Nazis were merely expressing peaceful disagreement with the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
"The president of the United States just defended neo-Nazis and blamed those who condemn their racism and hate. This is sick."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
In what many observers characterized as an "unhinged" display for a president, Trump repeatedly assured reporters that he watched the events that unfolded over the weekend "very closely," and came away with the conclusion that anti-racist protesters—who Trump claims "came charging in without a permit"—were "very violent," and argued that there were many "good people" among the white supremacists who participated in the so-called "Unite the Right" rally on Saturday.
"I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it," Trump said of the violence that left one woman dead and dozens injured.
President Trump: "I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it" https://t.co/fa7ilqOa16
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 15, 2017
The president also defended his delayed response to the white supremacist violence, saying he likes to "wait for the facts before commenting"—a rule that is evidently suspended when the perpetrators are thought to be Muslim.
"Making the statement when I made it was excellent," Trump said.
President Trump on the timing of his Charlottesville statements: "Making the statement when I made it was excellent" https://t.co/SIDuNsJ4xZ
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— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 15, 2017
In an echo of Saturday, when Trump was praised by neo-Nazis for blaming "many sides" for the violence in Charlottesville, David Duke—former grand wizard of the KKK—thanked Trump following the Tuesday press conference for telling the "truth" about "leftist terrorists."
Among non-white supremacists, the reaction to Trump's comments was a mixture of horror and dismay. MSNBC commentator Chuck Todd said the press conference gave him "chills," and the Anne Frank Center called the president's remarks "nauseating" and "racist."
"This is unconscionable," concluded The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
"Trump is on camera right now defending the white supremacists at Charlottesville. Saying many were good people. No joke," wrote activist and New York Daily News writer Shaun King. "It's disgusting."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), writing shortly after the press conference came to a close, expressed similar outrage.
"The president of the United States just defended neo-Nazis and blamed those who condemn their racism and hate," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) declared on Twitter. "This is sick."