At an unscripted and combative press conference at Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon, President Trump doubled down on his initial, controversial, and deeply troubling response to the Charlottesville violence, saying "The first statement I made on Saturday was a fine statement." That statement, which allocated blame for the deadly violence to "many sides," seemed to equivocate between the white nationalists who instigated the protest, and the anti-fascist left-wing counter-protestors, one of whom was killed by a Nazi sympathizer.
On Monday, Trump seemed to bow to pressure from both parties and within his administration to offer a more forceful rebuke by denouncing racism as "evil." But today's press conference was a bold reaffirmation of his initial position, leaving citizens, pundits, and politicians shell-shocked.
Trump stated there is "blame on both sides," and asked: "What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?" He went on: "What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do."
Trump offered another reprimand of hate groups, stating "I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups." But his castigating felt like a cursory aside when paired with the rest of his speech, which denied the evident racial impetus behind the protest: "Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch," he said.
In another tirade, Trump took the unprecedented step of a sitting President essentially equivocated the Revolutionary War (for America's freedom) with the Civil War (for slave emancipation) by saying "This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
Trump's question could be asked of Republicans, many of whom have stood next to the President under the pretense of his traditional conservative agenda, and who now have no more cover when it comes to a President whose rhetoric undeniably emboldens white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, and neo-Nazis -- former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke chief amongst them:
Where does the conversation go from here? REVOLT is partnering with Tidal for a town hall addressing the Ch rlottesville violence hosted by Van Jones. Check back for Tidal X: Van Jones – We Rise Against Hate right here at 9PM ET.