Backlash as Trump again blames 'both sides' for Virginia violence

Donald Trump speaking at Trump Tower in New York City Credit: APTN
  • Video report by by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

Donald Trump has reignited the row over the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, by once again insisting there was "blame on both sides".

The US President earned praise from the former head of the Ku Klux Klan for his latest interpretation of the attack in which a car was driven into people protesting against a far-right march.

One woman died and 19 others were injured in Saturday's attack.

In his latest statement, Mr Trump said "attacking" violence by left-wing protesters should be highlighted as he defended the time it took him to single out white nationalists involved.

  • How have Trump's statements on Charlottesville changed?

Video shows Donald Trump's three statements on the clashes

The US president's widely criticised first response to the clashes condemned "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" after the car attack came during clashes in Charlottesville.

The right-wing march was held to protest the proposed removal of a statue of American Civil War general Robert E Lee, who led the pro-slavery southern forces.

On Monday, the Republican made a more conventional statement at the White House, branding members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who took part as "criminals and thugs".

The president said the driver whose attack claimed the life of 32-year-old Heather Heyer was a disgrace to himself and his country.

But in an impromptu press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, he praised his original response and angrily blamed liberal groups in addition to white supremacist for the violence.

  • What exactly did the president say?

Mr Trump said: "What about the alt-left that came charging at...the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

"You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible, and it was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side.

"There was a group on this side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want but that's the way it is."

He also defended the time it took him to single out white nationalists involved, saying that "before I make a statement I need the facts".

  • What is the response to his latest comments?

The former head of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, thanked Mr Trump for his "honesty" and "courage" in telling the truth about the violence and for condemning "leftist terrorists".

However, senior Republicans were among those to condemn Mr Trump's comments.

Former Presidents George H W Bush and George W Bush said in a statement: "America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms."

Marco Rubio, who ran against the president for his party's nomination ahead of last year's election, said the president was diminishing the white supremacists' responsibility.

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, did not directly criticise the president, but said there could be "no moral ambiguity".

Following criticism from both Republicans and Democrats of President Trump's initial remarks, Vice President Mike Pence condemned the violence "in the strongest terms".

  • What else did Mr Trump say?

At Trump Tower, the President took out a copy of his original statement, repeating the start but omitting to repeat his controversial "on many sides" line.

"Before I make a statement I need the facts, so I don't want to rush into a statement, so making the statement when I made it was excellent," he added.

Tributes are left for Heather Heyer, who was killed after being hit by a car during violence in Charlottesville on Saturday Credit: PA

He also claimed the mother of Heather Heyer had said the "nicest things" about him on social media.

"I very much appreciated that," he said, adding: "I hear she was a fine, actually an incredible young woman - but her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said."

Following criticism from business leaders and a number of resignations from CEOs from advisory councils over Trump's response to the violence, the president has decided to disband two of the councils.

He Tweeted on Wednesday: "Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!"