What about the ‘Alt Left’?: Trump sets off more outrage with new Charlottesville comments
Trump has seemingly yet to recover from widespread criticism on his initial comments Saturday, after a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, while counter-protesting an alt-right march attended by white supremacists and white nationalists. At the time, the president condemned violence from “many sides,” and amid a backlash Monday, he specifically called out neo-Nazis.
On Tuesday, during a heated news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan that was meant to focus on infrastructure, Trump spent most of the time critiquing reporters who asked why it took him so long to issue a stronger statement.
One reporter asked Trump if he thought the press was treating white nationalists unfairly.
“No, no,” Trump responded. “There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. if you look, there were people protesting very quietly, the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I'm sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.”
“But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest,” Trump continued, “and very legally protest, because I don't know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn't have a permit.”
Trump said there were “two sides to a story” before asking,
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?”
“Let me ask you this, what about the fact they came charging with clubs in the hand, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do,” he said.
“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.”
The fiery exchanges with the press pushed “Alt Left” near the top of trending topics on Twitter. Many were bewildered, denying the term represented anything real at all.
Former Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein said the term was devised to fool others into believing that “people who support human rights for all are morally equivalent to Nazis.”
Others on Twitter pointed to some on the political left for coining the term as an epithet for some progressives in the broader liberal movement.
Trump predictably drew many attacks on social media. Some of the praise, however, may have been the least helpful.
Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke thanked Trump “for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” he said on Twitter. Duke had previously called out Trump’s perceived feebleness, saying, “It’s amazing to see how the media is able to bully” him.
Democratic officials in Virginia on the local and federal levels also took aim at Trump for his comments Tuesday.
Rep. Don Breyer said Trump “won't desert the white supremacists. Just incredible.”
Senator Mark Warner simply responded to Trump’s defense of his initial remarks about the rally by saying “No words.”
Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy wrote, “This guy REALLY defended the "Alt Right" smh..”
Trump also claimed that many of the people at the rally were “innocently” protesting the statue of Robert E. Lee being taken down. He said that those who were against “changing history” and “changing culture” were “treated absolutely unfairly” by the press.
Trump also compared the leaders of the confederacy to the nation’s founding fathers, questioning if their statues would be taken down because they were both slave owners.
“So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after,” Trump said. “You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
A Twitter user reacted to the president’s comments by saying, “Uh oh… Trump just compared generals of confederacy to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.”
Others defended the president.
Several GOP leaders spoke out against Trump’s statements, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), who was hospitalized after being shot by what many described as an attack from the “alt-left” type during a congressional baseball practice in Washington, DC last month.
Scalise tweeted a statement on Tuesday, reiterating his call to “defeat white supremacy and all forms of hatred.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said that the white supremacists were “100% to blame” for the attacks, and they would see sharing the blame with the counter-protesters “as a win.”
“We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected,” Rubio tweeted.
Former presidential candidate Jeb Bush urged Trump to unite the country by leaving “no room for doubt that racism and hatred will not be tolerated or ignored by his White House.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) tweeted that white supremacy is “counter to all this country stands for” and there can be “no moral ambiguity.”