Trump drops 'many sides' quote while defending his Charlottesville response

President Trump lashed out at the media Tuesday for what he characterized as unfair coverage of his response to violence in Charlottesville, Va., where a rally organized by white supremacists ended with the death of a counterprotester.

Speaking at a Phoenix campaign rally, Trump recited a portion of his initial remarks on Aug. 12, the day of the unrest, but neglected to repeat his controversial claim that “many sides” were responsible for the violence.

That line was widely panned, and lawmakers of both parties urged him to explicitly denounce the white supremacist groups, which he did after two days of silence.

In his initial statement, Trump said, “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence — on many sides, on many sides.”

On Tuesday in Phoenix, Trump rehashed his initial remarks.

“Here’s what I said on Saturday: ‘We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.’ This is me speaking: ‘We condemn in the strongest, possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.’ That’s me speaking on Saturday, right after the event,” Trump said.

At the rally, he lamented he was not given more credit for his eventual condemnation of hate groups in Charlottesville.

“I hit ’em with ‘neo-Nazi,’” Trump said, flipping through a copy of his remarks he had grabbed earlier from his jacket pocket. “I hit ’em with everything. I got the ‘white supremacists,’ the ‘neo-Nazi.’ I got ‘em all in there. Let’s see. ‘KKK,’ we have ‘KKK.’”

He touted the comments in a Wednesday tweet.

Trump did indeed condemn those white supremacist groups in his second Charlottesville statement, on Aug. 14, but the next day at a press conference, he returned to his initial rhetoric.

“I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it,” Trump said then. In a quip that sparked fury, he then said there were “very fine people on both sides,” in Charlottesville. 

At his Phoenix rally, Trump compared his initial failure to name the hate groups with former President Barack Obama’s refusal to call out “radical Islamic terrorists” for attacks. Obama argued that groups like ISIS were not actually Islamic, and his administration believed the term would alienate Muslim allies.

“To the best of my knowledge, when there was a big problem, Barack Obama never said it took place because of ‘radical Islamic terrorists,’ he never said that,” Trump said.

“They have a double standard,” he continued. “Because the media is totally dishonest, and they have a double standard. You never heard them say that. And in fact, if you use the term you’d get criticized. But with me, they wanted me to say it, and I said it. And I said it very clearly, but they refused to put it on.”

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