Earlier today, Aug. 15, at a press conference on infrastructure held in Trump Tower, President Donald Trump went off-the-rails. After giving a brief statement on an executive order he signed in order to eliminate red tape from building permitting, he was asked about his two statements on the weekend violence at Charlottesville. After getting defensive, Trump blamed the "alt-left" for Charlottesville violence, doubling down on his initial remarks.
Trump defended his first statement on the Charlottesville violence, which he released from his Bedminster, NJ golf resort, in which he condemned violence "on many sides."
I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct -- not make a quick statement. The statement I said on Saturday was a fine statement ... it takes awhile to get the facts, you still don't know the facts, and it's a very important process for me.
The president's confrontational tone and demeanor only became more pronounced as other reporters asked him to clarify his thoughts on Charlottesville.
That's when he took the time to blame what he called the "alt-left" for this weekend's violence.
What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? ... What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging, in their hands? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute, I'm not finished. I'm not finished fake news. That was a horrible day. I watched this very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and 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 it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
Taken in context with his initial statement condemning violence on "many sides," Trump's rambling defense seems to fall in line with the "both sides" rhetoric that gives equal blame to the "alt-right" (white supremacists) and what some have dubbed the "alt-left," or leftist, anti-racist protesters sometimes associated with Antifa.
While alt-right is a term coined by white nationalists to make their views more "palatable," the alt-left is a term that attempts to equate far-right, white supremacist political views with leftist politics and tries to yoke leftist views to the racism of the alt-right and the much-derided protest tactics of Antifa, a loose collective of anti-fascists.
But Trump's comments on the purpose of both the University of Virginia rally on Aug. 11 and the Charlottesville rally on Aug. 12 -- which led to the death of one anti-racist counter-protester -- reveals a lot about how he really feels. He stated,
Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. You take a look at some of the groups and you'd see -- and you'd know if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you're not. [...] This week it's Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson's coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
Read in this context, it seems, then, that he is putting the responsibility of this weekend's violence on the phantom of the "alt-left." After all, the "alt-right" was just peacefully protesting the removal of a statue venerating a slave-owning Confederate general.
His comments were bumbling, cruel, and factually inaccurate. Maybe he should take notes on dealing with tragedy from his old friend, former President Obama.