Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday evening defended President Donald Trump’s response to the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and suggested that the media unfairly criticized Trump’s remarks.
“Yesterday President Trump clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred which took place on the streets of Charlottesville,” Pence said at a press conference with the president of Colombia, according to a pool report. “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”
“The president also made clear that behavior by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse,” Pence added.
However, in his original statement on the attack in Charlottesville, Trump did not specifically call out white nationalists. He instead condemned “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” The White House insisted Sunday that Trump’s condemnation included “white Supremacists, KKK, neo-nazi and all extremist groups.”
Pence suggested that the media unfairly attacked Trump’s vague Saturday statement.
“The president’s call for unity yesterday, though, was from the heart. It was a sincere call, in these two divided times in our country, for those on the extremes to be dismissed and for the vast majority of Americans who cherish freedom, who cherish justice for all, to come together, in new and in renewed ways,” Pence said, according to the pool report. “I will say I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetrated the violence to begin with.”
In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, Pence struggled to explain the “many sides” Trump mentioned in his statement.
NBC’s Peter Alexander asked Pence if it was a “mistake” for Trump to be unclear about who he was condemning.
“I think the President yesterday spoke into a national moment words that the American people needed to hear, that we condemn acts of violence, acts of hatred,” Pence replied.
Alexander then asked Pence to identify the “many sides” Trump mentioned.
Pence did not directly answer the question, instead saying, “As I said today, we condemn in the strongest terms the hate and violence advocated by groups like white supremacist and neo-Nazis and their ilk.”
Alexander again asked Pence to name the “many sides.”
In response, Pence noted that protests have turned violent over the past few years, sometimes against police officers. He then bashed the media for criticizing Trump’s vague statement.
This post has been updated.