Donald Trump just had an outright meltdown on national television in a Q&A following a presser on infrastructure.
Having disingenuously denounced white nationalists on Monday for the groups’ role in the violence that left one dead and dozens injured over the weekend in Charlottesville, the President just held a press conference in New York and while taking questions from reporters, went on a series of bizarre rants about everything from statues to American history.
Seemingly at wit’s end with the endless barrage of criticism he’s received for failing to single out the KKK and neo-Nazis on Saturday afternoon (despite the fact that the former Grand Wizard of the Klan said, on CNN, that he and other white supremacists were in Virginia to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump”), the President harangued reporters and for all intents and purposes, completely negated everything he said on Monday.
Here’s a rundown:
TRUMP SAYS HIS SATURDAY STATEMENT ON CHARLOTTESVILLE WAS `FINE’
TRUMP: PEOPLE STILL DON’T KNOW ALL FACTS ON CHARLOTTESVILLE
TRUMP SAYS BANNON IS GOOD PERSON, NOT A RACIST
TRUMP: DO PEOPLE WHO CHARGED AGAINST ALT-RIGHT HAVE ANY GUILT?
TRUMP SAYS TWO GROUPS WERE VIOLENT AT CHARLOTTESVILLE RALLY
TRUMP: `THERE’S BLAME ON BOTH SIDES’ IN CHARLOTTESVILLE
TRUMP: THERE WERE ‘FINE’ PEOPLE IN BOTH GROUPS AT RALLY
Obviously, that is going to create a complete and total public relations nightmare for whatever’s left of his communications team.
But it got worse. And immeasurably so.
Listen to this:
Trump: Jefferson was a "major slave owner… are we going to take down the statue?… you're changing history, you're changing culture." pic.twitter.com/IIoIuxbKfK
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) August 15, 2017
And then this:
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) August 15, 2017
Just to be as blunt as possible: I have absolutely no idea how he’s going to recover from that spectacle.
Trump is of course right that this country is built on hypocrisy, but the whole point is that we’ve been working for more than a century to right that wrong. And the thing is, slavery and racism are wrongs that can never be completely righted in the first place, so the very last thing we need is for Trump to defend white supremacists by pointing to Thomas Jefferson’s slaves.
We’ll add to this coverage shortly, but for now all we can say is this: good luck Gen. Kelly.
And speaking of Kelly…
John Kelly during the President's Q and A at Trump Tower pic.twitter.com/vxR3hTUqe3
— Kristin Donnelly (@kristindonnelly) August 15, 2017
Here’s the transcript:
Reporter: Why do you think these CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?
Trump: Because they are not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country. They’re having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example. Take a look where – excuse me, excuse me. Take a look at where their product is made. It’s made outside of our country. We want products made in the country. Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they are leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside and I’ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you’re referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.
Reporter: Why did you wait so long to put that last statement out?
Trump: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long.
Reporter: It was at least 48 hours.
Trump: I wanted to make sure – unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct. Not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the fact. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts, and it’s a very, very important process to me, and it’s a very important statement, so I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to – I brought it. I brought it. I brought it. As I said – remember this, Saturday – we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America, and then I went on from there. Now, here’s the thing. Excuse me, excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts, so I don’t want to rush into a statement.
So, making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman, who I hear is a fantastic young woman – and it was on NBC – her mother wrote me and said – through I guess Twitter, social media – the nicest things, and I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman. But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike – excuse me – unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement I like to know the facts.
[Cross talk. Inaudible questions.]
Trump: They don’t. They don’t.
[Cross talk. Inaudible questions.]
Trump: Listen, how about- how about a couple of infrastructure questions?
Reporter: Was that terrorism, that event? Was that terrorism?
Trump: Say it. What?
Reporter: The CEO of Wal-Mart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
Trump: Not at all. I think the country – look, you take a look. I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president. The country is booming, the stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We’re doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So, the head of Wal-Mart, whom I know, who is a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean, I do it the same way. You know why? Because I want to make sure, when I make a statement that the statement is correct, and there was no way – there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters – unlike a lot of reporters. I know, David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts, and the facts as they started coming out were very well-stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts. It was very important – excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly, because if I would have made a fast statement – and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made with knowledge, with great knowledge. There’s still things – excuse me, there’s still things that people don’t know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts. Okay.
Reporter: Two questions. Was this terrorism and can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
Trump: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country, and that is … you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That’s what I’d call it. Because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible inexcusable thing.
Reporter: Can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon? Can you talk about that?
Trump: Go ahead.
Reporter: I would echo Maggie’s question. Steve Bannon has-
Trump: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.
Reporter: Can you tell us broadly – do you still have confidence in Steve?
Trump: Well, we’ll see. Look, I like Mr. Bannon, he’s a friend of mine, but Mr. Bannon came on very late – you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him, he’s a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good person, he actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he’s a good person and I think the press treats him frankly very unfairly.
Reporter: Do you have confidence in him?
Another reporter: John McCain has called on you to defend your national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Trump: I have already done it. I did it the last time.
Reporter: And he called on you again to –
Trump: Senator McCain? You mean the one who voted against Obamacare?
Reporter: And he said-
Trump: Who is senator- You mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good health care?
Reporter: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
Trump: Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he’s talking about. But when you say the alt-right…uh, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.
Trump: No, define it for me. Come on, let’s go.
Reporter: Senator McCain defined them as the same groups.
Trump: Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at – 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?
[Cross talk. Inaudible questions.]
Trump: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging – that they came charging, with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs. Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day-
[Cross talk. Inaudible questions.]
Trump: Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.
Reporter: Is it the same level as neo-Nazis?
Trump: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it, and you have- You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group, you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.
Trump: Go ahead.
Reporter: Do you think what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
Trump: Those people, all of those people- excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.
Reporter: Well, white nationalists-
Trump: Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee. So … Excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see and you’d know it if you were honest reporters – which in many cases you’re not. But many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop? But they were there to protest- excuse me. you take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of the Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question. Go ahead.
Reporter: Should statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?
Trump: I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government depending on where it is located.
Reporter: Are you against the Confederacy?
Another reporter: How concerned are you about race relations in America and do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
Trump: I think they have gotten better- or the same- I- look. They’ve been frayed for a long time, and you can ask President Obama about that because he’d make speeches about it. But, I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs – you see where companies are moving back into our country – I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country, we have two car companies that just announced, we have FoxConn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I say pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay and, when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me, and it’s very important.
Reporter: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
Trump: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side. There was a group on this side – you can call them the left, you’ve just called them the left – that came violently attacking the other group, so you can say what you want but that’s the way it is.
[Cross talk. Unintelligible questions.]
Reporter: Mr. President, your words-
Another reporter: You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are there-
Trump: Well, I do think there’s blame- Yes. I do think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either and- and- and- and if you reported it accurately, you would say it.