Vice President Mike Pence can always be relied upon to give a measured response to controversies surrounding the White House. On Wednesday, he expressed his support for President Donald Trump after media attempts to label the president a racist.
The media is saying the president’s statements Tuesday were “shocking” and that his presidency is “headed to a very dark place.” Vice President Pence responded to questions about the President’s stance from a news conference in Santiago, Chile.
“The president has been clear on this tragedy, and so have I,” Pence said. “I stand with my president.”
Pence didn’t directly address a reporter’s question about his opinion of specific statements Trump made during a press conference on Tuesday. During that event, President Trump was forced to once again address the timing and content of his many denouncements of the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
Speaking to the press at Trump Tower Tuesday, the president answered numerous questions as the media pressed the president about his stance. The president maintained that both sides were guilty of displaying the hate and violence in Virginia: the original protesters (tagged by white hate groups) and counter-protesters (Antifa and Black Lives Matters activists).
Harsh criticism was leveled at the president as many were offended that he could blame people for confronting fringe white supremacists chanting anti-Jewish slogans. Yet the president did condemn the hate speech and actions of the white supremacists. What he failed to do was conform to the narrative that they were the only group responsible for the violence.
The violence began with a protest sanctioned by a nationalist group, gathered in Charlottesville, over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park.
After violence erupted between the two clashing groups, the rally turned into a riot and physical altercations resulted.
One woman was killed and at least 19 others were injured when an Ohio man allegedly drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, and two Virginia state troopers who were observing the demonstrations died in a helicopter crash nearby.
On Wednesday, Pence lamented the death of Heather Heyer in Virginia. He talked about her funeral and offered prayers for her family.
To clarify his feelings about the violence, he referenced his Aug. 13 condemnation of racism, saying he stood by his initial comments.
“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists, or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” Pence said on Sunday. He called such groups “dangerous fringe groups” and added, “We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”
Pence continued, “The president also made clear that behavior by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse,” speaking of counter-protesters that went to the event to challenge the “white” group.
In his initial reaction Sunday, Pence also defended the president, who was being rebuked by the media because they felt he hadn’t spoken harshly enough about the white nationalist group that initiated the rally.
“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 perpetuated the violence to begin with,” he said at the time. “We should be putting the attention where it belongs, and that is on those extremist groups that need to be pushed out of the public debate entirely and discredited for the hate groups and dangerous fringe groups that they are.”
On Wednesday, after seven CEOs quit the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy and Policy Forum groups in protest of the president’s comments, Trump decided to end the advisory council groups altogether.
Still, on Wednesday Pence called for unity in a message to the American people. The vice president said:
“We’re also praying that in America we will not allow the few to divide the many. 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.”
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