President Donald Trump defended certain elements of the white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend on Tuesday, saying that there were people who just wanted to protect the statue of Robert E. Lee.
Trump held a news conference at Trump Tower in New York City and addressed the uproar he has received for his initial tepid response to violence surrounding a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville on Saturday. The president criticized media coverage and said that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were responsible for the violence.
He also said that people attending the protests had been unfairly maligned. “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 and the press has treated them unfairly,” Trump stated. He at one point said that some at the rally were “very fine people.”
“There were people in that rally and I looked the night before and 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 people,” the president added. The Friday night event President Trump was talking about was a torch-lit rally that had chants of “blood and soil,” “you will not replace us,” and “Jews will not replace us.”
“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 who were there to innocently protest…they had a permit, the other group didn’t have a permit,” Trump continued.
The permitted group was the Unite the Right rally that prominently featured white nationalist speakers.