Trump Says Both Sides to Blame amid Charlottesville Backlash

Dan Merica, CNN, August 15, 2017

President Donald Trump, in a staggering, impromptu press conference in New York on Tuesday, blamed the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend on both sides of the conflict—equating the white supremacists on one side with the “alt-left” on the other side—after his top White House aides spent days trying to clean up after Trump’s initial vague response to the violence.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said during a contentious back-and-forth with reporters in the lobby of his Midtown Manhattan building.

“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”

He added: “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”

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The President has been fuming in closed-door meetings about what he sees as unfair coverage.

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Trump also warned against nationwide attempts to remove statues to Confederate leaders, arguing that attempts to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee could lead to attempts to remove monuments honoring former Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

“You are changing history, you are changing culture” by taking down statues to past leaders, he said.

Trump said there were some “very bad people” on both sides, but that there was some who came out to protest the removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue who were “fine people.”

“You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, to them, of a very, very important statue and a renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” Trump said.

Pressed by reporters, Trump raised Washington and Jefferson, arguing there could be a slippery slope.

“George Washington was a slave owner. So will George Washington lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington?” he said. “How about Thomas Jefferson, what do you think of Thomas Jefferson, do you like him? OK good. Are we going to take down the statues, because he was a major slave owner? Now are we going to take down his statue?”

He added: “You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Trump’s slippery slope argument is straight out of the ‘alt-right’ playbook.

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