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Trump’s angry, dishonest rant about his Charlottesville comments, dissected

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Trump ignores his most controversial comments and invents plenty of details.
President Trump was in rare (okay, well, maybe not for him) form at a campaign-style rally Tuesday night in Arizona, delivering more than an hour-long speech in which he threatened a government shutdown, suggested he will pardon controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and again threatened to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) .
But before he got to all that, he delivered a lengthy, 15-minute-plus defense of his comments about Charlottesville — comments that earned criticism both from the left and from many on the right and reportedly alienated his own staff.
Trump, as he has made clear, doesn’t see anything wrong with what he said. But he also completely skirted the most controversial parts of his comments — when he blamed “both sides” and “many sides” for the kind of violence that was perpetrated in this particular case by white supremacists. He also fudged plenty of details.
Below, I break down the relevant sections of Trump’s defense.
“But the very dishonest media, those people right up there with all the cameras.… They don’t report the facts. Just like they don’t want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists and the KKK.”
Trump’s initial comments on Charlottesville on Aug. 12 were anything but “forcefully” speaking out against neo-Nazis and white supremacists. He did condemn “hatred, bigotry and violence, ” but he did not attach it to neo-Nazis or white supremacists. Instead, he blamed “many sides” and didn’t even mention those groups.
Here’s what he said:
Two days later, on Aug. 14, he did offer a more forceful denunciation in a prepared statement, saying, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
But the following day, Aug. 15, he seemed to revert to his initial comments. In a news conference with reporters, he again suggested there was blame to be shared. He was asked repeatedly about neo-Nazis and white supremacists and kept alluding to the fact that there was blame on “both sides” of the situation.
A sampling:
Trump did eventually mention neo-Nazis and white nationalists and say they should be “condemned totally, ” but it was literally an aside — a brief departure from his “both sides” comments:
His second and final mention of neo-Nazis and white nationalists called them “bad people” but again quickly returned to both-sides-ism.
Trump did, at one point, forcefully denounce neo-Nazis and white nationalists. But that wasn’t his initial response, and the totality of his comments suggests he doesn’t think they are particularly culpable or their actions are unique in this whole situation. That’s the source of the controversy that had even many Republicans speaking out.
“I openly called for unity, healing and love, and they know it because they were all there.”
Trump’s initial comments made no mention of these things. He did mention unity and love in his Aug. 14 comments.
“So what I did is I thought, I’d take just a second, and I’m really doing this more than anything else, because you know where my heart is, okay?… So here’s what I said, really fast, here’s what I said on: ‘We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia’ — this is me speaking. ‘We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.’ That’s me speaking on Saturday. Right after the event. So I’m condemning ‘the strongest, possible terms, ‘ ‘egregious display, ‘ ‘hatred, bigotry and violence.’ ”
Trump dishonestly truncates his comments here. The next six words out of his mouth on Aug. 12 were “… on many sides. On many sides.” Without those words, his comments wouldn’t have been so controversial. To leave that part out is to ignore to source of the entire controversy.
“So this is me — ‘It has no place in America’ — I’m talking about hatred, bigotry and violence — ‘It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety, security in our society, and no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.’ This is me speaking.”
This is the part after “on many sides” which, again, he conveniently left out.
“So in my second statement, I got really specific, and they said, why didn’t he do it faster? The — I’m telling you folks, look, I know these people probably better than anybody.”
Trump did get more specific in his second statement on Aug. 14, and he earned praise for it. It also came two days after a very high-profile case of racial violence that dominated the news and gripped the country, and with controversy swirling around his “many sides” comment. In that context, two days is a long time. And then Trump’s comments the following day, Aug. 15, reverted to his initial “many sides”/”both sides”-ism.
“So, I said here’s my — this is, by the way folks, this is my exact words — ‘I love all the people of our country. We’re going to make America great again, but we’re going to make it great for all of the people of the United States of America.’ And then they say, is he a racist? Is he a racist? Then, I did a second one. So then I did a second one.… So on August the 14th — so that was it, and I said all people, I love all people, everything, right? Now I figure I’m going to do it again. I’ll be even more specific. So I said, based on the events that took place over the last weekend in Charlottesville, I’d like to provide the nation with an update. Because that was right after the event, the first one, right? An update on ongoing federal response to the horrific attack and violence that was witnessed by everybody. To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable, justice will be delivered. That’s what I said. Listen to that, I said that, but they don’t show that. They don’t show it. They take — they’ll take one thing, like, seriously, he was late was the best thing.

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