When Joe Biden launched his candidacy Thursday, he called out President Trump in particular for Trump's words after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, of 2017. In the aftermath, Trump had said there were "very fine people on both sides." Asked again about those comments Friday, Trump defended them and said he was not supporting white supremacists. Instead, he said he was referring to people who admired Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and were protesting the removal of his statue from a Charlottesville park. “If you look at what I said, you will see that that question was answered perfectly,” Trump told reporters, reports the Hill. “I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee—a great general, whether you like it or not."
The "very fine" comments came on Aug. 15, 2017, and the Washington Post has the transcript:
- Reporter: "You said there was hatred and violence on both sides—"
- Trump: "Well, I do think there’s blame, yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. ..." After some crosstalk, he continues: "Excuse me. You had some very bad people in that group. 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."
- Trump: At another point, the president says: "And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis or 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."
- Skeptic's view: At the Post, an analysis by Aaron Blake questions the president's explanation. "Trump does this a lot," he writes. "He will say something suggestive—in this case, suggestive that the violence in Charlottesville wasn’t really such a clear-cut result of resurgent racism—and then he will later say something else to give himself plausible deniability. But the plausibility here is basically nil. Trump seemed to find something redeeming in a group of protesters that was clearly full of racists."
(Read more President Trump