President Donald Trump on Tuesday doubled-down on his initial comments about the Charlottesville violence Saturday that killed one woman and injured 19, saying "there is blame on both sides."
"You look at both sides," Trump said in an angry exchange with reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. "I think there is blame to project on both sides.
"I have no doubt about it. You don't have doubt about it, either," he said. "If you reported it accurately, you would say that.
"You had some very bad people in that group," he said of the counter-demonstrators. "You also had some very fine people on both sides.
"You had people – and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, they should be condemned totally – you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists," Trump said as the exchange grew more intense. "The press has treated them absolutely unfairly.
"In the other group also, you had some fine people — but you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats.
"You had a lot of bad people in the other group, too," he said.
President Trump came under fire across the political spectrum for his delayed response Saturday to the Charlottesville racial violence and for blaming the "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence" on "many sides, on many sides."
He re-read the statement at Trump Tower on Tuesday, but did not say on "many sides, on many sides."
Four corporate CEOs quit President Trump's manufacturing advisory council after Saturday's comments — and the CEO of Walmart, the world's largest employer, said Tuesday that Trump had "missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together."
The violence killed Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville, and injured 19 others when a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, mowed a crowd in the city's downtown mall area.
Fields faces second-degree murder charges and other offenses stemming from the attack. He is being held in jail without bond.
Two Virginia State Police troopers died in a helicopter crash relating to the violence.
Trump made a much stronger statement Monday, declaring "racism is evil" and condemning the neo-Nazis, KKK, and other white supremacist groups behind the rally over the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's statute from a Charlottesville park.
"To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held fully accountable," Trump said Monday. "Justice will be delivered."
But Tuesday's presser, which initially was to announce the president signing an executive order on infrastructure, quickly degenerated into President Trump defending his Saturday comments and slamming the media for its coverage.
"I didn't wait long," he said when asked about the delay in his initial comments. "I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct — not make a quick statement.
"The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement — but you don't make statements that direct unless you know the facts.
"It takes a little while to get the facts," the president said. "You still don't know the facts."
President Trump said "the second statement was made with knowledge, with great knowledge.
"There are still things that people don't know.
"I want to make a statement with knowledge. I want to know the facts."
At one point, he cautioned one reporter, "take it nice and easy" with questions — later angrily telling journalists "Wait a minute. I'm not finished. I'm not finished. Fake news" when he was interrupted.
He refused to call the car-ramming attack terrorism, only blasting Fields, the alleged driver, as "a disgrace to himself, his family, and this country.
"You can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want.
"I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict.
"There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics.
"The driver of the car is a murderer," Trump said. "What he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing."
President Trump also dismissed questions he was equating counter-demonstrators with white nationalists by holding both sides responsible for the violence.
"What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right?" he asked. "Do they have any semblance of guilt?
"What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs?
"Do they have any problem? I think they do.
"I am not putting anybody on a moral plain," President Trump later added. "You had a group on one side and the other — and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible.
"It was a horrible thing to watch."
The reaction on Twitter and across the web was swift to Trump's press conference.
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