Wednesday 17 January 2018

Fact Check: What Donald Trump said about Charlottesville protesters at extraordinary press conference

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a statement on the deadly protests in Charlottesville, at the White House in Washington, U.S. August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a statement on the deadly protests in Charlottesville, at the White House in Washington, U.S. August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Heather Heyer died after a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. Pic: GoFundMe

Darlene Superville and Sarah Rankin

Donald Trump has defended his response to the weekend's racially-charged protests in Charlottesville in a bruising exchange with reporters that at times mischaracterised the message and purpose of the event.

In his remarks, the president described the rally as largely over the removal of a Confederate monument, although an organiser billed it as pushback against the "anti-white climate".

Mr Trump also misstated his levels of political support in the 2016 election.

A look at his claims and the facts:

On who was to blame for for the violence at the protest

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Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

TRUMP: "But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E Lee ... There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E Lee. I'm sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people - neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know - I don't know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn't have a permit."

THE FACTS: The organiser of the rally, a local right-wing blogger and activist, has said he initially was spurred because of the city's decision to remove the statue. But he has also said the event, dubbed "Unite the Right," came to represent much more than that.

Jason Kessler told The Associated Press last week before the event that it was "about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do".

Those in the crowd included Ku Klux Klan members, skinheads and members of various white nationalist factions. Many were heavily armed. Some flew Nazi flags. They hurled racial slurs at counter-demonstrators and gave Nazi salutes.

White nationalist Richard Spencer - who popularised the term "alt-right" to describe the fringe movement mixing white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and anti-immigration populism - told the AP on Tuesday that the event was more than "just a Southern heritage festival".

He said Confederate monuments are "a metaphor for something much bigger, and that is white dispossession and the de-legitimisation of white people in this country and around the world".

On his claim that the victim's mother contacted him to say thank you

heather-heyer2.jpg
Heather Heyer died after a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. Pic: GoFundMe
 

TRUMP: "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."

THE FACTS: Mr Trump is correct. On Monday, NBC News tweeted that Susan Bro, the mother of the counter-protester killed on Saturday, had thanked the president for "denouncing those who promote violence and hatred". When asked in an AP interview on Tuesday about her comments, she did not repeat the praise for the president.

"I was so tired I don't remember saying something nice or derogatory about him," she said, adding she did not want to criticise the president.

Kim Bro, her husband, said he did not think it was fair for the president to use a grieving mother for his own personal gain.

He added that he thinks the focus should be on his stepdaughter - "what she stood for and what will come out of it".

On his claims that he won all the primaries

TRUMP: "I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries."

THE FACTS: Mr Trump won most of the Republican presidential primary contests. He lost in Ohio to John Kasich, the state governor. Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Mr Trump in primaries in his home state and in Wisconsin. Mr Trump also lost Puerto Rico's primary to Marco Rubio. Primary elections were also held on the Democratic side, none of which Mr Trump would have won.

Press Association

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