During a press gaggle aboard Air Force One on Thursday, President Trump reverted to the widely-decried “both sides” language he used last month to equivocate between the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia and those who showed up to protest them.
Speaking to reporters, Trump addressed a meeting he had Wednesday with the only black Republican in the Senate — Tim Scott (R-SC). Scott said that during the meeting, he questioned Trump’s “moral authority,” telling him, “The real picture has nothing to do with who’s on the other side… it has to do with the affirmation of hate groups who over three centuries in this country’s history have made it their mission to create upheaval in minority communities as the reason for their existence.”
“[Trump] shook his head and said, ‘yeah, I got it,’” Scott recalled, according to McClatchy. A White House press release about the meeting misspelled Scott’s name but said he and Trump discussed “the Administration’s relationship with the African American community, the bipartisan issue of improving race relations, and creating a more unified country.” It didn’t mention Charlottesville or Trump’s response to it at all.
But on Thursday, Trump was back to saying that there were “bad dudes” on the “other side” as well.
“I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also and essentially that’s what I said,” Trump said. “When you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying and people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’ I said there’s some very bad people on the other side also.”
Trump’s comments on Thursday echo what he said on August 12, the day an alleged Nazi sympathizer drove into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, killing one and injuring 19 others.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country, not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it’s been going on for a long, long time,” Trump said during a previously scheduled event for veterans.
Three days later, Trump went a step further and said he thought there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville clash, and defended the ostensibly reason for the white supremacist rally there — the city’s plan to take down a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
“You look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides,” Trump said. “They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and 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… you had people in that group that were in to protest, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park.”
Footage of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville showed participants chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” making the Nazi salute, and, in one instance, shooting a firearm at a black counter-protester.
As ThinkProgress detailed at the time, the one group of people who did in fact applaud Trump’s comments about Charlottesville were white supremacists themselves.