By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and MAGGIE HABERMAN
© 2017 New York Times News Service
President Donald Trump angrily defended himself on Tuesday against criticism that he did not specifically condemn Nazi and white supremacist groups following the weekend’s deadly racial unrest in Virginia, and at one point questioned whether the movement to pull down statues of Confederate leaders would escalate to the desecration of George Washington.
He said that “before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”
And he criticized “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is “blame on both sides.”
“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “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 defended those gathered in the Charlottesville park to protest the statue’s removal, saying, “I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Trump unleashed a torrent of frustration at the news media, saying they were being “fake” because they did not acknowledge that his initial statement about the Charlottesville protest was “very nice.”
Again and again, Trump said that the portrayal of nationalist protesters in the city were not all Nazis or white supremacists.
“Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” he said, adding that blame for the violence in the city should also be on people from “the left” who came to oppose the nationalist protesters.