President Trump went off-script at a press conference on infrastructure on Tuesday and now faces a firestorm of bi-partisan criticism for his remarks about events in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
The president said there’s blame on both sides for what happened in the progressive city, home to the University of Virginia. He spoke about what he called the alt-left charging with clubs at the alt-right.
“What about the alt -left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?,” Trump said to reporters in a news conference Tuesday.
Photos from the Associated Press back up the president’s argument, showing counter-protestors throwing a newspaper box at protestors and aiming a home-made flame thrower at protestors.
The president also defended himself from critics who say he should not have waited two days to condemn specific groups in Charlottesville. On Saturday he spoke out against hate and violence in general but didn’t name groups like white supremacists and neo-Nazis until Monday.
“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement,” Trump said.
The president spoke of quote, “very fine people,” on both sides and said that both sides were to blame. It’s that perspective that has so many on both the left and right outraged. Even former presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney denounced the comments.
Perhaps the only ones who seemed truly pleased – the protestors. David Duke, the former head of the KKK, thanked Trump on Twitter for his honesty and courage.
As more and more cities move to remove Confederate statues – the president wondered aloud Tuesday, “What’s next?”
“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?,” Trump also said.
Overnight, city crews in Baltimore began removing Confederate monuments and in Birmingham, Alabama crews covered a Confederate statue while legal options to remove it are debated. In the nation’s capital, vandals defaced the Lincoln Memorial with red graffiti and explicit language.
Amidst all the unrest, the father of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer is setting an example. He says he forgives the man who killed his daughter.
“People need to stop hating and they need to forgive each other. I include myself in that in forgiving the guy that did this. He don’t know no better. I just think of what the Lord said on the cross. ‘Lord forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing,'” Mark Heyer said in an interview.
Many Christian leaders this week have called for a full condemnation of white supremacists with no exceptions. They’re also calling for the church to lead the way – in a country that needs reconciliation and healing perhaps more than ever.