In response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one counter-protester dead and several others injured on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said the White House won't tolerate "white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or the KKK." But he also defended President Trump's response to Charlottesville, in which the president decried violence "on many sides" but pointedly refused to denounce white supremacy.
"We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK," Pence said at a press conference Sunday. "Our hearts go out to the victims of violence that ensued, to the family of the young woman who lost her life, the families of the two police officers who fell in the line of duty, and all those who were injured."
That was a marked contrast to Trump's response to the violence, which contained no reference to to the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who populated the rally.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," Trump said at a press conference of his own. "On many sides." When asked by a reporter if he wanted the support of white nationalists, Trump shook his head and ignored the question.
Trump ignores shouted question "Do you want the support of these white nationalist groups?" pic.twitter.com/vTgJZOir20— NotMyPresident (@MarcusC22973194) August 12, 2017
However, Pence said Sunday that Trump "clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence, and hatred which took place on the streets of Charlottesville," and criticized the media for focusing on the nature of Trump's comments.
“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,” Pence said. “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."
Former KKK leader David Duke credits President Trump for inspiring rally in Charlottesville pic.twitter.com/d0nWYrSSD7— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 13, 2017
This is far from the first time Trump has been condemned for refusing to denounce white nationalism. During his campaign, he was endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; when CNN's Jake Tapper asked him if he would disavow that endorsement, Trump refused, insisting that "I don't know anything about David Duke." PolitiFact rated that a "pants on fire" lie, as Trump had openly discussed Duke on television several times in years past.
In September, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton for failing to identify terrorists by their ideology, insisting that "anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country.