U.S. President Donald Trump got into heated debates Tuesday afternoon after a press conference on infrastructure policy that was derailed by questions about the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.
Over the weekend, a group of people, including white nationalists, were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee when they were met by counter-protesters. Violence erupted and one counter-protester ended up dead when a white supremacist drove his car into the crowd.
Trump’s initial comments on the incident denounced the violence, but didn’t call out the neo-Nazis at the protest. On Monday, he condemned neo-Nazis, calling them repugnant.
But at Tuesday’s press conference at Trump Tower in New York, Trump seemed to backtrack, saying “both sides” were to blame and that a group of “alt-left” protesters were “violently attacking the other group.”
The press conference quickly devolved into shouted questions about race relations, neo-Nazis, and White House adviser Steve Bannon.
Here are six highlights from the event:
‘Both sides’ are to blame in Charlottesville
Trump was widely criticized for his initial comments saying there were “many sides” to the violence on Saturday.
But despite condemning white supremacists on Monday, he doubled down on his argument.
When asked about the “alt-right” protesters, he countered, labelling the counter-protesters as the “alt-left.”
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the alt-right, do they have any semblance of guilt?” he said.
“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 that right now. You had a group on the other side, that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent,” he continued.
Trump defends Steve Bannon, but won’t say if he’ll keep him on staff
Trump made sure to clarify that Bannon, a top advisor and chief strategist during his campaign, was not a racist, despite not being asked about that directly.
Reporters asked: “Can you tell us what you’re feeling about your chief strategist?”
“I like Mr. Bannon … I like him, he’s a good man, he’s not a racist. He’s a good person,” he said Tuesday.
“We’ll see what happens to Mr. Bannon, and he has been treated very unfairly in the press.”
Trump mentions winery in Charlottesville
While most of the question-and-answer period of the press conference centered on the violence in Charlottesville, Trump made a point to tell people about his house in the city.
“I own a house in Charlottesville. Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?” he said.
“It is the winery,” he continued. “I own, actually, one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in Charlottesville.”
White House chief of staff John Kelly’s reaction
Gen. John Kelly, who other politicians have said will whip the White House into shape, was photographed hanging his head during when the Q and A session went off the rails.
NBC reporter Kristen Donnelly tweeted the image, which was shared thousands of times within a few hours.
Trump says race relations in America have ‘gotten better or the same’ during his presidency
Despite the current rise of white nationalism and neo-Nazi protests, Trump said race relations in U.S. haven’t changed.
“I think they’ve gotten better, or the same. Look, they’ve been frayed for a long time,” he said.
He also said bringing jobs into the country will have an impact on race relations.
“We have many companies … 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.”
He also said he was spending “a lot of money” on the inner cities.
Trump asks if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson statues will come down too
The protests in Charlottesville were initially about the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville. Lee was a Confederate general in the civil war.
“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down,” Trump said.
“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?
“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status?”
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