US President Donald Trump has defended his white supremacist response to the Charlottesville violence, omitting that he blamed “many sides” for the clashes.
Trump on Tuesday holding the campaign-style rally with Vice President Mike Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in Phoenix, said he strongly condemned “neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK”, CNN reported.
In retelling his remarks on the August 12 violence that left one woman dead, Trump omitted his reference to “many sides” in his first response to the clashes, and also his reference to “both sides” later on Tuesday — both seen as equating neo-Nazis with counter-protesters.
“What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America. And tonight, this entire arena stands united against the thugs who perpetrate hatred and violence,” Trump said.
“I hit ’em with neo-Nazi, I hit ’em with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got ’em all,” Trump said in reference to calling out specific groups in his statements.
The President also hinted that he could pardon Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa county sheriff.
“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? … You know what, I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine, OK? But I won’t do it tonight (Tuesday) because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good.”
In anticipation of Trump’s first trip to Arizona after winning the White House and his first to the West amid criticism for his remarks, the political world was abuzz with not just whether Trump would set off controversy in Phoenix — but which specific hot-button clash he could wade into.
Trump last week mocked Arizona Republican Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, while avoiding their names.
“One vote away, I will not mention any names,” he said, referring to McCain’s vote against Republicans’ healthcare bill.
Moving on to Flake, Trump said: “Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is. And now, we haven’t mentioned any names, so now, everybody’s happy.”
Trump earlier in the day near the border viewed equipment used by US Customs and Border Patrol agents to track illegal crossings.
The President’s aides planned his visit to the US-Mexico border but scrapped the visit over security concerns, a person in the know of things said.
Arizona’s top Republicans — including Flake and McCain, were not present in the rally.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican who is up for re-election in 2018, greeted Trump at the airport but did not attend the rally.
Thousands from across Arizona flocked to Phoenix Convention Centre to protest the rally, carrying signs, megaphones and water bottles to stay hydrated in the 41 degrees Celsius weather.
Democrats including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton lambasted Trump for even visiting the state.
Anti-Trump protesters put up an inflatable Trump — in a white robe with a Nazi symbol — and a giant sign that read “white supremacy will not be pardoned”.
Anti-Trump protesters yelled out chants including “Shame” and “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA”.