Just a day after President Trump issued a prepared statement condemning extremists and racism, he pivoted once again, coming to the defense of those who protested the removal of a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend at a rally that turned violent. In their defense, Trump posed that the people involved were not all necessarily neo-Nazis, and were there to simply fight against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
He asked a room full of reporters during a press conference, "George Washington was a slave owner. ... Are we gonna take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?" He also asserted that the so-called “alt-left” “came charging” at the alt-right during the rally. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?” he asked.
His comments, in which he admonished “both sides” for the violence on Saturday, shifted blame for the deaths and injuries away from the far right, and toward the counterprotesters that he’s calling the “alt-left.”
Just as Trump’s comments have changed, so have the reactions of leaders within the alt-right, white nationalists, and white supremacists such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. After initially scolding Trump for his tweets holding far-right extremists accountable, he congratulated Trump Tuesday for his “courage to tell the truth.”
Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa https://t.co/tTESdV4LP0— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 15, 2017
Ann Coulter, Richard Spencer, and Tim Gionet have all also tweeted praise for Trump’s statements.
We were Gideon's army without Gideon. Today, we got our leader back! @realDonaldTrump press conference: https://t.co/NiR2kwJkjT— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 15, 2017
I'm proud of him for speaking the truth.— Richard ☝ Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) August 15, 2017
Thank you President Trump for condemning the alt-left antifa thugs who attacked us in Charlottesville. pic.twitter.com/2VSeLa6hkC— Baked Alaska™ (@bakedalaska) August 15, 2017