President Donald Trump mounted an aggressive defense today of his response to a deadly far right march in Virginia, using a rally speech to condemn “dishonest” media coverage of his widely criticized remarks.
Trump faced bipartisan outrage after blaming “many sides” for violence at the rally in Charlottesville that took the life of an anti-fascist protester.
Re-reading his statements following the clashes at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, he railed at reporters for misrepresenting his remarks — but omitted the equivocation that had sparked the backlash in the first place.
“The very dishonest media… and I mean truly dishonest people in the media and the fake media, they make up stories.
They have no sources in many cases. They say a source says there is no such thing,” he said.
“But they don’t report the facts. Just like they don’t want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-Nazis, the white supremacists and the KKK.”
Trump dedicated around half an hour of his 78-minute speech in Phoenix, Arizona, to attacking the “sick people” in the news media, before turning his fire on his own side.
Speculation had been building that Trump would use the rally to formally endorse a challenger to incumbent moderate Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, in a shot across the bow of skeptical Republicans.
He mocked both Flake and fellow Arizona Republican senator John McCain, implying McCain had sabotaged Republican healthcare reforms, but elaborately avoided mentioning either by name.
Veering off script, Trump shied away from issuing a pardon for Joe Arpaio — a former sheriff in Arizona who was convicted of willfully violating a court order to stop targeting Hispanics in immigration roundups.
But he gave strong hints that he was preparing a future pardon, saying: “I think he’s going to be just fine, okay? I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had earlier told reporters there would be “no discussion” of Arpaio at the rally.
Trump voiced optimism over improvements in relations with North Korea following an escalation in aggressive rhetoric on both sides concerning Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
“I respect the fact that he is starting to respect us.
And maybe — probably not, but maybe — something positive can come about,” Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, although the president repeated his opinion that he had not gone far enough in his condemnation of Kim.
The speech came at the end of a trip to Arizona the White House hopes will re-energize core supporters cooling to Trump’s crisis-riddled presidency and build momentum for a controversial border wall.
(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)