It’s been nearly a year since a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly for one counter-protester, and members of President Donald Trump’s administration are still struggling to condemn the demonstration’s Nazi ideology.
While Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, a reporter pressed her to say whether Trump’s inflammatory remark in the aftermath of the violence ― that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the rally ― affected her ability to keep Americans safe.
“When he placed blame on, in his words, ‘on both sides,’ does that make your job harder, when the president says things that, at least in [white supremacist] communities, are viewed as, ‘He’s got our back’?” NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander asked Nielsen during their sit-down.
The DHS secretary eventually echoed the president’s controversial statement in her response.
“No matter who it is, I think what’s important about that conversation is, it’s not that one side is right, one side is wrong,” Nielsen said. “Anybody that is advocating violence, we need to work to mitigate.”
You can see the full exchange below, about 47 minutes into the video.
Nielsen also suggested that the violence at the Charlottesville rally may have been prompted by outside actors.
“Maybe there were different ― whether it was foreign influence or different purposeful attempts to get both sides, if you will, aggressively pitted against each other,” she said.