Vice President Mike Pence says he is standing by President Donald Trump in regards to the president’s contentious comments in a Tuesday press conference. Trump said “both sides” were to blame for the violence that ensued at a white nationalist-run rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
At a press conference on Wednesday, a reporter asked Pence three questions, all of which he effectively dodged. The first question was whether Pence agreed with Trump that there were good people among the white supremacist protesters, the second was whether Confederate statues should be removed, and the third was whether Robert E. Lee should be considered in the “same pantheon” as George Washington.
Pence took a beat and evaded all three questions entirely, saying:
“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy and the president has been clear on this tragedy and so have I. I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia and I stand with the president and I stand by those words.”
Pence is currently in Chile, a stop on a South American trip that he has announced he’s cutting short to return to the U.S. on Thursday.
Pence also said that despite being in Chile, “our hearts are in Charlottesville” and paid tribute to the 32-year-old woman who was killed in the protests.
“Just a few short hours ago, the family and friends gathered to say farewell to a remarkable young woman, Heather Heyer,” he said.
“We’ve been praying, we’ve been praying for God’s comfort for her family and her friends and we are also praying in America, we will not allow the few to divide the many,” he said. “The strength of the United States of America is always strongest, as the President has said so eloquently, when we are united. Around our shared values and so it will always be.”
Since his statements in Chile, Pence has canceled a planned appearance he had scheduled for Saturday with Ed Gillespie, who is currently the GOP nominee for governor of Virginia. Gillespie tweeted on Wednesday that the “white supremacists and neo-Nazis who invaded [Charlottesville] espouse reprehensible views that have no redeeming value whatsoever.”
Trump’s comments during the Tuesday press conference, which was supposed to be about infrastructure, have united both Democrats and Republicans in saying the president needs to do more to fight against white supremacists. White supremacists, on the other hand, have praised his remarks.