'I think there's blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it'
‘There is no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry,’ was the response Senator John McCain had to President Donald Trump‘s latest remarks yesterday.
And, thankfully, most of the world agrees.
After the US President was criticised for his reaction on Twitter to the Charlottesville protests (while his daughter Ivanka Trump straight up condemned the white supremacists and neo-Nazis behind the events), the world assumed he’d learnt his lessons about generalising and not calling a spade a spade.
What happened at the weekend wasn’t a protest that got out of hand, it was a terror attack. The very definition of a terrorist is ‘a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims,’ and isn’t that exactly what those who marched against the removal of a statue of a pro-slavery Confederate commander – complete with torches and white supremacist slogans – are?
Especially when one peaceful anti-racism protestor, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, lost her life trying to stand against this hate.
Finally, on Monday, it seemed that Donald Trump condemned the far-right, calling the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists ‘repugnant’ to everything America stands for – but apparently that came just from his advisers, rather than Trump himself.
As come Tuesday, Donald Trump’s real thoughts were revealed during an unedited press conference.
He asks the crowd to look at ‘the facts’ and to not jump to conclusions – a patience and empathy he has not shown to other extremist groups prior to this.
What he’s saying is that there were some peaceful protestors among the white supremacists – and some violent protestors within the anti-racism march – but considering it was the anti-racism protestors who found themselves injured, and one dead, can that really be argued?
The transcript from yesterday’s press conference is going viral online and quite frankly, most people are shocked and disgusted by the president’s laissez faire attitude to the events. See for yourself:
Donald Trump press conference transcript
Reporter: Why did you wait so long to put that last statement out?
Trump: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long.
Reporter: It was at least 48 hours.
Trump: What about the alt-left that came charging at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
Trump: 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 fact. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts, and it’s a very, very important process to me, and it’s a very important statement, so I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to — I brought it. I brought it. I brought it. As I said — remember this, Saturday — we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America, and then I went on from there. Now, here’s the thing. Excuse me, excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts, so I don’t want to rush into a statement.
So, making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman, who I hear is a fantastic young woman — and it was on NBC — her mother wrote me and said — through I guess Twitter, social media — the nicest things, and I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman. But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike — excuse me — unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement I like to know the facts.
Reporter: Was that terrorism, that event? Was that terrorism?
Trump: Say it. What?
Reporter: The CEO of Wal-Mart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
Trump: Not at all. I think the country — look, you take a look. I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president. The country is booming, the stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We’re doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So, the head of Wal-Mart, whom I know, who is a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean, I do it the same way. You know why? Because I want to make sure, when I make a statement that the statement is correct, and there was no way — there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters — unlike a lot of reporters. I know, David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts, and the facts as they started coming out were very well-stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts. It was very important — excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly, because if I would have made a fast statement — and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made with knowledge, with great knowledge. There’s still things — excuse me, there’s still things that people don’t know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts. Okay.
Reporter: Two questions. Was this terrorism and can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Trump: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country, and that is … 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. That’s what I’d call it. Because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible inexcusable thing.
Reporter: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
Trump: Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he’s talking about. But when you say the alt-right…uh, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.
Trump: No, define it for me. Come on, let’s go.
Reporter: Senator McCain defined them as the same groups.
Trump: OK. What about the alt-left that came charging at-
Trump: Excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?
Trump: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging — that they came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day-
Trump: Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.
Reporter: Is it the same level as neo-Nazis?
Trump: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad 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. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.
Trump: Go ahead.
Reporter: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
Trump: Those people, all of those people- excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.
Reporter: Well, white nationalists-
Trump: Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. So … Excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see and you’d know it if you were honest reporters — which in many cases you’re not. But many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop? But they were there to protest- excuse me. you take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of the Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question. Go ahead.
Reporter: Should statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?
Trump: I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government depending on where it is located.
Reporter: Are you against the Confederacy?
Another reporter: How concerned are you about race relations in America and do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
Trump: I think they have gotten better- or the same- I- look. They’ve been frayed for a long time, and you can ask President Obama about that because he’d make speeches about it. But, I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs — you see where companies are moving back into our country — I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country, we have two car companies that just announced, we have FoxConn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I say pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay and, when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me, and it’s very important.
Reporter: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
Trump: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side — you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group, so you can say what you want but that’s the way it is.
[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]
Reporter: Mr. President, your words-
Another reporter: You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are there-
Trump: Well, I do think there’s blame- Yes. I do think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either and- and- and- and if you reported it accurately, you would say it.
[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]
Reporter: Neo-Nazis started this in Charlottesville. They showed up at Charlottesville, they-
Trump: Excuse me.
Reporter: To protest the removal of that-
Trump: [Inaudible.] You have 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.
Reporter: Do you support white nationalists, then?
[Cross talk. Reporters shout questions.]
Trump: Well, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down- Excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
Reporter: I do love Thomas Jefferson-
Trump: OK, good. Well, are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue? So, you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture and 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, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, 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 got a lot of bad people in the other group, too.
Reporter: Who was treated unfairly? Sir, I’m sorry I don’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? I just don’t understand what you were saying.
Trump: No. No. There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before. 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 ones. 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 that were there to innocently protest — and very legally protest, because you know- I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So, I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country. Does anybody have a final- does anybody- you have an infrastructure question.
Reporter: Mr. President, have you spoken to the family- have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car attack?
Trump: No, I’ll be reaching out. I’ll be reaching out.
Reporter: When will you be reaching out?
Trump: I was very — I thought that the statement put out, the mother’s statement, I thought was a beautiful statement. I must tell you, I was- it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific, and really under the- under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache that she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won’t forget. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.
Reporter 1: What about the nazis who support you?
Reporter 2: Do you plan on going to Charlottesville, Mr. President?
Reporter 3: Do you think you’re helping to heal the nation?
Trump: I own a house in Charlottesville. Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?
Reporter: Where is it?
Trump: Oh, boy, it’s going to be- it’s in Charlottesville, you’ll see.
Reporter: Is it in the winery or something?
Trump: It’s a- it is the winery.
Trump: I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that’s been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own- I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States that’s in Charlottesville.
Reporter: What do you think needs to be done to overcome the racial divides in this country?
Trump: Well I really think jobs can have a big impact. I think if we continue to create jobs — over a million, substantially more than a million — and you can see just the other day, the car companies coming in with fox- you know, FoxConn. I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I’m- that I’m creating jobs, I think that’s going to have a tremendous impact, positive impact on race relations.
Reporter: And what you said today, how do you think that will impact the racial-
Trump: Because people are going to be working, they’re going to be making a lot of money, much more money than they ever thought possible.
Reporter: -your remarks today.
Trump: And the other thing, very important, I believe wages will start going up. They haven’t gone up for a long time. I believe wages now, because the economy is doing so well with respect to employment and unemployment, I believe wages will start to go up. I think that will have a tremendously positive impact on race relations. Thank you.