Donald Trump has retracted his initial response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, now blaming ‘both sides’.
In a news conference on Tuesday, the President blamed the violence in Charlottesville on ‘both sides’, calling rally protesters “the alt-left” and refusing to condemn the ‘alt-right’ activists.
Trump said there were some “very fine” people on both sides of the protest, including the side attended by members of the KKK and neo-nazi’s.
“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said
“No one wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now: You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”
“They came at each other with clubs … it was a horrible thing to watch,” the President said.
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s comments were met with praise from David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader and a prominent white nationalist, who tweeted after the press conference at Trump Tower:
“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists.”
A senior White House official told CNN that Chief of Staff John Kelly and other advisors hoped the President would talk about infrastructure, but concedes they were wrong and had no idea what Trump would say.
“That was all him – this wasn’t our plan,” the official said.
Celebrities, politicians and the public all took to social media after the press conference to condemn Trump’s statement:
America's fate is not with the racist madman POTUS, it's with the 300 Republicans in Congress not impeaching him. #DoSomething
— Elizabeth Banks (@ElizabethBanks) August 15, 2017
One good thing about that abomination of a speech: it's now impossible for any Trump supporter to pretend they don't know what he is.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 15, 2017
We don't want a president who stands up in any way for Nazis, KKK & Alt Right like he did today. Bigotry's evil that's it. #ImpeachOrResign
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) August 15, 2017
.@realDonaldTrump, you are embarrassing our country and the millions of Americans who fought and died to defeat Nazism.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 15, 2017
At the press conference, Trump accused the media of “changing history, changing culture” and for treating the people who were holding the rally “very badly”.
When asked why he waited so long to condemn the rally in Charlottesville, Mr Trump said he wanted to be careful not to make a “quick statement” without all the facts.
“If the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice,” the President added.
He then reiterated that there were “bad people” on both sides of the rally.
Immediately after the press conference, the hashtag #ImpeachTrump was a top trend in both the US and the UK.