Trump blames 'both sides' for Virginia
violence as many Republicans balk
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[August 16, 2017]
By Amanda Becker and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S.
President Donald Trump inflamed tension after a deadly rally by white
nationalists in Virginia by insisting that counter protesters were also
to blame, drawing condemnation from some Republican leaders and praise
from white supremacists.
In a combative news conference, Trump backed off from his Monday
statements explicitly denouncing the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white
supremacists for the violence that erupted at a "Unite the Right" rally
in Charlottesville, and reverted to his weekend contention that "many
sides" were to blame.
"You had a group on one side that was bad," Trump said on Tuesday. "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."
Trump later said, "I think there is blame on both sides and I have no
doubt about it," adding that there were "very fine people" on both
At the weekend rally against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee,
commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army during the U.S. Civil War,
many participants were seen carrying firearms, sticks, shields, and lit
torches. Some wore helmets.
Counter-protesters came equipped with sticks, helmets and shields.
James Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio man who is said to have harbored Nazi
sympathies, was charged with murder after the car he was driving plowed
into a crowd of counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer on
Saturday and injuring 19.
A memorial service for Heyer is planned in Charlottesville on Wednesday.
Trump's remarks drew swift criticism from many Republican leaders.
"No, not the same," former Massachusetts governor and Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrote on Twitter. "One side is
racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who vied with Trump for the
Republican presidential nomination, also responded in a series of
"The organizers of events which inspired and led to
#charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100 percent to blame for a number of
reasons," Rubio began.
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump answers questions about his response to the
events in Charlottesville as he talks to the media in the lobby of
Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 15, 2017.
"Mr. President, you can't allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of
the blame. They support idea which cost nation and world so much pain …
the #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50 percent of
the blame as a win," Rubio added.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke applauded Trump for his "honesty &
courage" on Twitter. Richard Spencer, the head of a white nationalist
group, wrote on Twitter that he was "proud of him for speaking the
Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO labor federation
representing 12.5 million workers, resigned from Trump's American
Manufacturing Council, joining a series of chief executives in doing so.
White House officials hoping to put the controversy behind them, worried
the conference would revive and intensify the controversy. Asked about
next steps, one official said: "I think next steps are just to stop
Hours later, the White House sent its regular "evening communications
briefing" of talking points on the "news of the day" to Republican
lawmakers, copies obtained by multiple news organizations, including CNN
and the Atlantic, showed.
The first summary point read: "The President was entirely correct – both
sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone in Charlottesville; Editing by
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