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Donald Trump stunned the world with fresh comments over the far-right Charlottesville protest during an explosive press conference on Tuesday.
The US President once again refused to explicitly condemn the neo-Nazi marchers, instead maintaining there was blame “on both sides” while criticising the “alt-left”.
During the heated question and answer session, which lasted a quarter of an hour, President Trump riled the press as he repeatedly accused journalists of lacking honesty and spreading “fake news”.
Here are some of his most startling claims.
“What about the alt-left that came charging?”
A reporter tried to ask President Trump a question about Senator John McCain, who said the alt-right was behind the attack in Charlottesville.
Repeatedly interrupting the journalist, the president first tells her to “define alt-right to me” before criticising the counter-protesters.
President Trump says: “I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he’s talking about. But when you say the alt-right…uh, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.
“No, define it for me. Come on, let’s go.”
Trump then goes on: “OK. What about the alt-left that came charging at, excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?
“Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.”
He adds: “Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.”
“There’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it.”
Asked by a reporter whether the counter-protesters are on the same level of neo-Nazis, President Trump said: “I will tell you something.
“I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have, 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 right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”
Asked again whether he thinks the alt-left are the same as neo-Nazis or white nationalists, President Trump said: “Those people, all of those people, excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.”
Later asked whether he was putting both sides on the same moral plane, President Trump said: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane.
“What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side.
“There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group, so you can say what you want but that’s the way it is.”
He added: “Well, I do think there’s blame, yes. I do think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides.
“I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either and if you reported it accurately, you would say it.”
“Race relations have gotten better”
Asked whether the president was concerned about race relations in America, President Trump said: “I think they have gotten better, or the same. I, look, they’ve been frayed for a long time, and you can ask President Obama about that because he’d make speeches about it.
“But, I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs — you see where companies are moving back into our country — I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations.
“We have companies coming back into our country we have two car companies that just announced, we have FoxConn in Wisconsin just announced.
“We have many companies, I say pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs.
“What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay and, when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me, and it’s very important.”
On Confederate statues being taken down:
“Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee,” President Trump said.
“And you take a look at some of the groups and you see and you’d know it if you were honest reporters — which in many cases you’re not.
“But many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?
“You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop? But they were there to protest, excuse me. you take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of the Robert E. Lee.”
Returning to the issue later on in the conference, President Trump said: “Well, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down, are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington?”
He then moved onto Thomas Jefferson, and said: “Now, are we going to take down his statue?
“So, you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture and you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned, totally.
“But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You got a lot of bad people in the other group, too.
On former KKK leader David Duke:
President Trump was asked whether he agreed with the CEO of Walmart’s comments that he missed a critical opportunity to help unite the country.
The president replied: “Not at all. I think the country — look, you take a look. I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president.
“The country is booming, the stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We’re doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm.
“So, the head of Wal-Mart, who I know, who is a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean, I do it the same way. You know why? Because I want to make sure, when I make a statement that the statement is correct, and there was no way, there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters — unlike a lot of reporters.
“I didn’t know, David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts, and the facts as they started coming out were very well-stated.”
On whether the driver of the car which killed a woman during the protest was a terrorist:
“Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country, and that is, you can call it terrorism,” President Trump said.
“You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict.
“That’s what I’d call it. Because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible inexcusable thing.”
“There were fine people on both sides”
“You have some very bad people in that group,” President Trump said of the far-right protesters. “But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group, excuse me, excuse me, I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”
“There are two sides to every story”
Returning to the protests again towards the end of the conference, President Trump said: “There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before. If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
“I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people: neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.
“But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest — and very legally protest, because you know- I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.
“So, I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.”
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