Former Vice President Joe Biden’s spokesman posted a partial transcript of the remarks President Donald Trump made in 2017 following the violence in Charlottesville, leaving out Trump’s condemnation of neo-Nazis and white nationalists.
Bill Russo posted a partial transcript on Aug. 8 highlighting when Trump said: “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
“You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
— Bill Russo (@BillR) August 8, 2019
He tagged Breitbart, whose reporter had confronted Biden at the Iowa State Fair earlier Thursday.
Breitbart responded, posting a fuller transcript of what Trump said: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazi’s and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.”
“Why did you need to omit this?” the outlet asked Russo.
Why did you need to omit this? pic.twitter.com/k26qetCCmu
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) August 8, 2019
Russo responded, posting a picture of neo-Nazis at Charlottesville: “Ok so exactly which of the torch-wielding, Nazi-saluting fanatics chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ fit your gaslighting narrative?”
Breitbart reporter Joel Pollak had confronted Biden over his portrayal of Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville, asking Biden, “Mr. Vice President, are you aware that you’re misquoting Donald Trump in Charlottesville? He never called neo-Nazis ‘very fine people.’”
Biden responded, saying “No.”
“He called all those folks who walked out of that—they were neo-Nazis. Shouting hate, their veins bulging,” Biden responded.
“But he said specifically that he was condemning them,” Pollak said to Biden. “He said—”
“He did not,” Biden interrupted. “He walked out and he said—let’s get this straight—he said ‘there are very fine people of this group.’”
While some of the groups that converged on Charlottesville in 2017 to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee included neo-Nazis, there were other people there as well, such as Michelle Piercy, a night shift worker at a Wichita, Kansas, retirement home, who spoke to the New York Times and said she traveled all night to protest the removal of the statue.
She also told mediaequalizer.com that she attended as a peacekeeper, fearing police wouldn’t intervene in clashes between the groups.
“We were made aware that the situation could be dangerous, and we were prepared.” Piercy said, adding that “the situation was completely disorganized, the police were responsible for herding white supremacists on the street where Antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter] were located. All chaos broke out. I witnessed police officers say, ‘that’s not our problem’ and ‘you shouldn’t have come’ and refused to help the injured.”
Some of the people protesting the removal were defended by Trump, who also noted that there were violent leftists in the crowd, such as Antifa.
The president condemned neo-Nazis on Aug. 15, three days after Charlottesville, following an Aug. 14 statement:
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Transcript of Trump’s Remarks
Q Let me ask you, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to blast neo-Nazis?
THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t wait long.
Q You waited two days —
THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t wait long.
Q Forty-eight hours.
THE PRESIDENT: 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 facts. 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 —
Q So you had to (inaudible) white supremacists?
THE PRESIDENT: I brought it. I brought it. I brought it.
Q Was it terrorism, in your opinion, what happened?
THE PRESIDENT: As I said on — remember, Saturday — we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. And then it went on from there.
Now, here’s the thing —
Q (Inaudible) many sides.
THE PRESIDENT: 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 was 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.
Q Why do Nazis like you — (inaudible) — these statements?
THE PRESIDENT: They don’t. They don’t.
Q They do. Look —
THE PRESIDENT: How about a couple of infrastructure questions.
Q Was it terrorism, that event? Was that terrorism?
Q The CEO of Walmart said you missed a critical opportunity —
THE PRESIDENT: Say it. What?
Q The CEO of Walmart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
THE PRESIDENT: 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 Walmart, who I know — who’s a very nice guy — was making a political statement. I mean —
THE PRESIDENT: I’d do it the same way. And 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 —
Q Nazis were there.
Q David Duke was there.
THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t 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 after, with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things — excuse me — there are still things that people don’t know.
I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts.
Q Two questions. Was this terrorism? And can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Stephen Bannon?
THE PRESIDENT: 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.
Q Can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon? Can you talk about that?
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
Q I would echo Maggie’s question. Steve Bannon has come under —
THE PRESIDENT: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.
Q Can you tell us broadly what your — do you still have confidence in Steve?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ll see. Look, 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 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.
Q Senator McCain has called on you to defend your National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, against these attacks.
THE PRESIDENT: I did it the last time.
Q And he called on it again, linking —
THE PRESIDENT: Senator McCain?
Q — to the alt-right, and saying —
THE PRESIDENT: Senator McCain?
THE PRESIDENT: You mean the one who voted against Obamacare?
Q And he said —
THE PRESIDENT: Who is — you mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?
Q 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.
THE PRESIDENT: 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, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.
Q Well, I’m saying, as Senator —
THE PRESIDENT: No, define it for me. Come on, let’s go. Define it for me.
Q Senator McCain defined them as the same group —
THE PRESIDENT: 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?
Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.
Q You’re not putting these —
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day —
Q Sir, you’re not putting these protestors on the same level as neo-Nazis —
Q Is the alt-left as bad as white supremacy?
THE PRESIDENT: 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.
Q Is the alt-left as bad as Nazis? Are they as bad as Nazis?
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
Q Do you think that what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
THE PRESIDENT: 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. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.
Q Should that statue be taken down?
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. If 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, if you take a look, the night before they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
Infrastructure question. Go ahead.
Q Should the statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.
Q How concerned are you about race relations in America? And do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
THE PRESIDENT: I think they’ve gotten better or the same. 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 has done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me, and it’s very important.
Q Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
THE PRESIDENT: 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 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.
Q (Inaudible) both sides, sir. You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If 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 if you reported it accurately, you would say.
Q The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group.
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.
You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
Q George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.
THE PRESIDENT: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down —
Excuse me, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
Q I do love Thomas Jefferson.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?
So you know what, it’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.
Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people. But you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group.
Q Who are the good people?
Q Sir, I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? I just don’t understand what you were saying.
THE PRESIDENT: No, no. There were people in that rally — and I looked the night before — if you look, there 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 I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country — a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.