Pence defends Trump response to Charlottesville violence

Vice President Pence on Sunday condemned white supremacists and defended President Trump following criticism that the administration failed to adequately condemn specific groups after Saturday violence in Charlottesville, Va.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said at a press conference in Cartagena, Colombia, according to a White House press pool report.

Trump had neglected to name the groups that organized the rally that turned violent in Charlottesville the previous day. 

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However, Pence said Trump “clearly and unambiguously” condemned what happened in Charlottesville. He referred to such groups as "dangerous fringe groups" and said “we condemn them in the strongest possible terms."

“The president also made clear that behavior by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse,” Pence said.

He also criticized the media for reporting on the criticism of Trump's response. A number of Republicans were quick to urge the president to specifically condemn white supremacy, while Democrats sought to connect White House advisers to the far-right movement.

“I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetuated the violence to begin with,” Pence said.

“We should be putting the attention where it belongs, and that is on those extremist groups that need to be pushed out of the public debate entirely and discredited for the hate groups and dangerous fringe groups that they are," he continued.

A protest against government removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville on Saturday turned violent. The white supremacist protesters clashed with counterprotesters, leading the governor to declare a state of emergency before the rally even started. A woman died and multiple were injured after a car plowed into counterprotesters. The alleged driver of the car was arrested shortly after driving away.

Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville was criticized on both the left and right by lawmakers who said he needed to explicitly condemn white supremacists and place the blame on far-right groups for sparking the violence.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides," Trump said on Saturday. 

The White House clarified Trump's position on Sunday. An official said "of course" the president condemns violence by "white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."

Protesters rallying in the name of the Charlottesville victims on Sunday night protested Trump at Trump Tower in New York City and Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Demonstrators held signs that read “No Free Speech For Fascists" and “Make Racists Afraid Again…Smash White Supremacy!”

This report was updated at 9:15 p.m.