On Tuesday night, in a shocking and potentially disastrous political move at his campaign rally in Phoenix, Donald Trump reread his statement on Charlottesville, defending himself against criticism that he did not denounce white supremacism thoroughly enough. In rereading the statement for his audience, however, he conveniently left out his comment that blamed the violence "on both sides," which many Americans viewed as an insult to the counter-protesters combatting white supremacy in Charlottesville.
"'We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of bigotry, hatred, and violence,' that's me speaking on Saturday," Trump said before the crowd Tuesday night. But last Saturday, the statement read a little differently: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides."
People immediately reacted to the speech on social media, and many were appalled at Trump's defense of his controversial statement. "Trump recounts his Charlottesville statements as though they were a tiresome obligation of checking boxes. Zero sincerity," said House of Cards creator Beau Willimon. CNN's Jim Acosta pointed out that this is the fourth time that Trump is clarifying his statements on Charlottesville, each time with very different ramifications.
This is likely to create even further deficits for the Trump administration, which has been suffering politically in the wake of Charlottesville. According to Gallup, the president's approval ratings sank to their lowest levels ever after Trump's reactions to Charlottesville, to a historic 34/61 approval/disapproval spread. Nevertheless, rereading his statements earned Trump huge cheers from his supporters at the rally.
His redux on the Charlottesville statements came early on in the rally, but there was hardly a political topic that Trump didn't touch upon throughout his speech. He bounced from attacking the media to defending Confederate statues to the border wall all within just a few minutes. Another recent favorite topic that Trump mentioned was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with whom Trump has been feuding for the past few weeks.
Even with all the other topics mentioned in the speech, Trump's defense of his statements may end up being the most memorable part of his rally. The recent visibility of white supremacy and Trump's reaction to it have mobilized people across the country with fresh urgency — the protest against Trump's rally itself was so large that it shut down parts of downtown Phoenix. People have reacted to his statements so strongly already, and bringing them back to the forefront of people's minds may create even more political movement against the Trump administration.