President Donald Trump’s news conference on Tuesday aimed to set the tone for his forthcoming push on infrastructure.
Trump read his prepared remarks, and opened the floor to questions from the media. Instead of infrastructure, however, reporters pressed the president on his delayed, waffling response to the white supremacist violence that engulfed Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
Rather than clarify his position, Trump muddied the waters more, seemingly reversing the condemnation of white supremacists he had issued a day earlier.
“Not all those people were neo-Nazis, believe me,” Trump said of those involved in the violence that led to three deaths and 19 injuries. “Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
(As a measure of Trump’s statements Tuesday, former KKK leader David Duke thanked the president, and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer said he was “really proud” of Trump.)
Democrats, predictably, rushed to criticize Trump’s remarks. But some Republicans took swings as well. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), like other members of Trump’s party, didn’t condemn the president by name, but made clear what Trump didn’t.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) pointed to his remarks over the weekend, warning, “Either we succumb to the bigotry and tribalism which threaten to tear us apart ― or we condemn evil in all its forms.”
Here’s how other politicians reacted:
“It’s almost as though he’s making it up as he goes along,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) remarked on Twitter. Thirty minutes later, he added: “As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President.”
John Dingell, a former Democratic House member from Michigan, called Trump an “embarrassment”: