On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump hit the campaign trail with a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump’s remarks made clear that the aftermath of racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, is still very much on his mind.
But the president seemed more preoccupied with his image than the deep divisions in the country. And he defended himself by misrepresenting what he’d said about the Charlottesville violence in the first place.
About 10 minutes into his speech — which was largely a rambling condemnation of the media, with added, indirect shots at both of Arizona’s Republican senators — Trump decided to rehash the racially charged events of the past few weeks, blaming the media for mischaracterizing his response to the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“I don’t want to bore you with this, but it shows you how dishonest they are,” Trump said as he took a piece of paper out of his pocket, rereading his remarks from Saturday, August 12, his initial statement condemning the violence.
“Here's what I said on Saturday: ‘We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia,’ — this is me speaking,” Trump said in Phoenix. “‘We condemn in the strongest, possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.’ That's me speaking on Saturday. So I'm condemning the strongest, possible terms, ‘egregious display,’ ‘hatred, bigotry and violence.’”
Exasperated, the president threw up his hands.
“Okay, I think I can't do much better, right?” he said.
But there was one glaring omission in Trump’s latest version of his original speech. What he actually said on Saturday, August 12, was “We condemn in the strongest, possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence — on many sides.”
The “many sides” comment is key. It is what drew condemnation from Republican and Democratic politicians alike, because it implied that the president was equating neo-Nazis and white supremacists with counterprotesters who were in Charlottesville to oppose neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
After intense criticism following his initial statement, Trump took to the podium on Monday, August 14, to strongly condemn neo-Nazis and members of the KKK, and declare, “racism is evil.” In Phoenix, he criticized the media for focusing on the fact that it took him two days to condemn hate groups.
“Listen to that, I said that, but they don't show that. They don't show it,” Trump told his supporters in Phoenix. “They take — they'll take one thing, like, seriously, he was late was the best thing. He was late.”
Any doubt that the president believed two sides were to blame for the violence was erased a few days later, when he definitively said that “both sides” were at fault, and called counterprotesters the “alt-left” in a news conference at Trump Tower.
The difference between Trump’s strong condemnation on August 14 and his explosive remarks once again equating white supremacists with counterprotesters a few days later was that the first was a prepared statement; the latter was the president’s unfettered thoughts. His original statements, however, speak for themselves.
Most of the rally was an attack on Trump’s favorite foe: the media
More generally, Trump’s comments on Charlottesville were part of a wide-ranging attack on his perceived enemies — from the media to Republican senators to the protesters known as antifa (short for “anti-fascist”). Here are a few of those attacks:
But, you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good last night, please, please, Mr. President don't mention any names. So I won't. I won't. … One vote away, I will not mention any names. And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won't talk about him.
The two nameless people Trump was referring to were Arizona’s Republican senators Jeff Flake and John McCain. Trump spent a good deal of time talking about McCain’s vote against Obamacare repeal without mentioning the senator’s name, and the “other senator” he mentioned is Flake, who has been very vocal in his criticism of Trump.
And just so you know from the Secret Service, there aren't too many people outside protesting, okay. That I can tell you.
Thousands of protesters turned up outside the convention center where Trump was speaking. Protests largely remained peaceful until the end of Trump’s speech, when some protesters attempted to get through barricades that had been set up, and police fired tear gas at them.
Then you wonder why CNN is doing relatively poorly in the ratings. Because they're putting, like, seven people all negative on Trump. And they fired Jeffrey Lord, poor Jeffrey. Jeffrey Lord. I guess he was getting a little fed up, and he was probably fighting back a little bit too hard.
CNN fired pro-Trump panelist Jeffrey Lord because he tweeted the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil!” at a detractor on Twitter. Lord claimed he was using the phrase to characterize his opponent as fascist, not to endorse it. CNN, however, thought differently, saying that any reference to Nazi salutes was “indefensible.”
The New York Times essentially apologized after I won the election, because their coverage was so bad, and it was so wrong, and they were losing so many subscribers that they practically apologized.
Politifact has fact checked this, and gave it a “false” rating. The New York Times wrote their subscribers a letter after the election essentially promising to double down on coverage of the Trump presidency. The paper never apologized to Trump for their election coverage, and they have actually been boosting their readership in recent month, reporting record numbers of new subscribers.
So I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point, okay? Probably.
The US is currently in the middle of NAFTA renegotiations with Canada and Mexico. The first week of talks just wrapped up, with US officials pushing for major changes that the other two countries oppose. But the president just suggested scrapping the entire thing.
Look back there, the live red lights. They're turning those suckers off fast out there. They're turning those lights off fast. Like CNN. CNN does not want its falling viewership to watch what I'm saying tonight, I can tell you.
Trump, who is fond of claiming television networks don’t pan to show his crowds, took things a step further on Tuesday, claiming CNN had turned off its cameras altogether. This confused many people who were watching Trump’s live speech on CNN, uninterrupted.