Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Watch: Trump's controversial 'many sides' remarks on Charlottesville clashes

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump on Saturday blamed "many sides" for the violent clashes between protesters and white supremacists in Virginia and contended that the "hatred and bigotry" broadcast across the country had taken root long before his political ascendancy.

That was not how the Charlottesville mayor assessed the chaos that led the governor to declare a state of emergency, contending that Trump's campaign fed the flames of prejudice.

RUBIO: Donald Trump needs to clearly denounce white supremacists in Charlottesville

Trump, on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, had intended to speak briefly at a ceremony marking the signing of bipartisan legislation to aid veterans, but he quickly found that those plans were overtaken by the escalating violence in the Virginia college town. One person died and at least 26 others were sent to the hospital after a car plowed into a group of peaceful anti-racist counterprotesters amid days of race-fueled marches and violent clashes.

And officials later linked the deaths of two people aboard a crashed helicopter to the protests, though they did not say how they were linked.

RELATED: Three dead after clashes between white supremacists and protesters

Speaking slowly from a podium set up in the golf clubhouse, Trump said that he had just spoken to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va. "We agreed that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and ... true affection for each other," he said.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides," said Trump. "It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time."

RICHARD SPENCER: White nationalist leader coming to Florida campus?

The president said that "what is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives."

After completing his statement and the bill signing, Trump then walked out of the room. He ignored reporters' shouted questions, including whether he wanted the support of white nationals who have said they backed him or if the car crash in Virginia were deemed intentional, would it be declared to be terrorism.

The previous two days, Trump took more than 50 questions from a small group of reporters. A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for an explanation as to what Trump mean by "many sides."

Following Trump's comment, several Republicans pushed for a more explicit denunciation of white supremacists.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner tweeted "Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote "Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It's the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be."

And even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch Trump supporter, wrote: "We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out."

White nationalists had assembled in Charlottesville to vent their frustration against the city's plans to take down a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters massed in opposition. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car drove into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally. The driver was later taken into custody.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to "fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."

Trump's speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: "Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. ... No condemnation at all."

The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its "Summer of Hate" edition.

Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

"I'm not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president," he said.

Disturbances began Friday night during a torch-lit march through the University of Virginia before escalating Saturday.

The White House was silent for hours except for a tweet from first lady Melania Trump: "Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let's communicate w/o hate in our hearts."

Trump later tweeted: "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for." He also said "there is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!" Trump tweeted condolences about the woman killed the protests Saturday evening, more than five hours after the crash.

Trump, as a candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was "the platform for the alt-right."

The president's reluctance to condemn white bigots also stood in stark contrast by his insistence of calling out "radical Islamic terrorism" by name.

"Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name," Trump said in a general election debate.

In his remarks Saturday, Trump mentioned the strong economy and "the many incredible things in our country, so when I watch Charlottesville, to me it's very, very sad."

President Donald Trump speaks about the ongoing situation in Charlottesville, Va., at Trump National Golf Club, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) NJPM204

President Donald Trump speaks about the ongoing situation in Charlottesville, Va., at Trump National Golf Club, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) NJPM204

Watch: Trump's controversial 'many sides' remarks on Charlottesville clashes 08/13/17 [Last modified: Sunday, August 13, 2017 10:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.