President Trump’s planned infrastructure announcement unraveled into chaos as he all but erased any credit he got on Monday for condemning white supremacists for the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Va.
Trump said it was “a horrible day” but said several times that counter-protesters were not getting enough scrutiny for their role in the confrontation and emphasized his belief that many of the protesters who joined with white nationalists were innocent.
“What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right'? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump said. “They came charging with clubs in their hands,” he said of the counter-protesters.
Trump effectively reopened the debate — saying "there is blame on both sides" — despite insistence from politicians in both parties that white supremacists and other racists deserved to be singled out.
“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,” he said.
Trump defended the cause of those who gathered to protest the removal of a statue honoring Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy.
“Was George Washington a slave owner. So will George Washington lose his status?” he said. “What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? ... You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”
While Trump condemned the driver who rammed the crowd and killed a counter-protester, he declined to label the action specifically as an act of terrorism.
“The driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and his country,” Trump said. “You can call it terrorism; you can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want.”