At a campaign rally on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, President Trump made news by significantly underestimating protest crowds in Phoenix and threatening to shut down the government.
He also spent the majority of his speech blaming the media for race relations in the U.S., particularly after Charlottesville.
He defended his initial, controversial remarks on the recent violent protests—but in doing so, he left out the parts of the remarks that inflamed people’s tempers the most, like his comment that there was violence “on many sides.”
“I am really doing this to show you how dishonest these people are. Here is my first statement when I heard about Charlottesville. Here is what I said on Saturday: “’We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.’ This is me speaking. ‘We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.’ That’s me speaking on Saturday, right after the event.”
The key part here is this sentence: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.”
Trump did say that, but he left out the second part of that sentence. The full sentence was: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides—on many sides” (per a transcript from Vox).
It was that “many sides” part that angered many people. It appeared to put the KKK, neo-Nazi and other White supremacist rally-goers on the same moral footing as the counter-protesters who opposed them.
He made the comparison more than once in his responses to the events in Charlottesville. The Tuesday after the protest, he said:
“Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging—excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” he said in response to a reporter’s question. He later added: “You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”
Continuing his newfound fondness of Confederate statues, Trump lamented the efforts in some parts of the country to take down statues honoring the losing side of the Civil War.
“They are trying take away our culture, they are trying to take away our history,” he said.
Trump also stated during his speech that “There aren’t too many people outside protesting.”
Thousands of people were out on the streets of Phoenix protesting Trump’s speech, according to multiple media accounts and the Phoenix police chief, who said the city’s downtown had “tens of thousands” of people exercising their right to free speech.
Among the other topics Trump briefly discussed were health insurance premiums, job numbers, economic growth and stock market highs.
“The stock market is at its all-time high in history,” said Trump.
Trump is right: The Dow Jones industrial average (one of the most closely watched stock indexes) has posted several record highs this year, passing the 22,000 mark in early August.
Trump also threatened to shut down the government in a matter of weeks if Congress did not fund a wall on the southern border that was a signature promise of his campaign for the White House.
He told the rowdy crowd: “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall. We’re going to have our wall. The American people voted for immigration control. We’re going to get that wall.”