After unsuccessfully pleading with President Donald Trump not to hold a rally Tuesday night in his city, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said that the event had continued “to divide this country.”
Stanton said Wednesday that his fears about Trump’s rally had been confirmed.
“It’s very unfortunate what occurred last night in Phoenix with regard to the President’s speech,” he told MSNBC’s Willie Geist. “I had strongly stated that it wasn’t the right time for a campaign rally here in Phoenix so shortly after the tragedy in Charlottesville. Obviously a young woman was murdered in that tragedy in Charlottesville. The President failed to show real moral leadership after that incident. His words tended to divide the country, not unite the country.”
The Charlottesville rally ended with one counter-protester dead after a man who had been photographed with a white nationalist group allegedly rammed his car into a crowd. In remarks after that attack, Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence, and said days later that there were “very fine people” on both sides.
However, in Phoenix, he left out those details and blamed the media for distorting his response and giving a platform to white supremacists.
Stanton had urged Trump in a Washington Post op-ed on Aug. 22 not to hold his campaign rally in Phoenix.
“America is hurting. And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline,” he wrote. “With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.”
On Wednesday, Stanton also lamented Trump’s apparent assurances that he would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“He openly talked about pardoning Sheriff Joe,” Stanton said, noting “all that Sheriff Joe had done to terrorize Latino residents here locally.” Trump has hinted at pardoning Arpaio in the past, though never as explicitly as he did Tuesday, when he said Arpaio was “going to be just fine” and that “I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to cause any controversy.” CNN reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed administration official, that the White House was prepared to finalize the pardon.
“You put it all together, it just wasn’t the right time for a speech like that,” Stanton said. “And unfortunately, last night the President gave a speech that did continue to divide this country. He did nothing to unite this country and did indicate he will be pardoning Sheriff Joe. He decided not to do it at the event last night but made it clear he was planning on doing it and that’s a real tragedy for the people here in Phoenix.”
The mayor added later: “The President really blew it after Charlottesville. He blew it for himself and for the people of Charlottesville, the victims of the violence there, the young woman who was murdered there. He really blew it.”