On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump appeared at a political rally in Phoenix, Arizona, against the stated wishes of the city's mayor. There, Trump rehashed his statements about the white supremacist protests and anti-racist counter-protests in Charlottesville two weeks ago. The next morning, repeating the claim that the "fake news" media lied about his Charlottesville response, Trump tweeted: "Last night in Phoenix I read the things from my statements on Charlottesville that the Fake News Media didn't cover fairly. People got it!"
He was referring, in all likelihood, to a portion of his speech in which he read aloud bits and pieces of his second statement on Charlottesville, which was sandwiched between his initial statement ― in which he blamed the violence on hatred and bigotry "on many sides" ― and his third statement, in which he reverted back to blaming "both sides" in a testy and rambling press conference. Specifically, Trump read aloud some portions of his second statement, and asked the crowd if they'd heard the media report any of it.
"Then I said, racism is evil," Trump declared. "Do they report that I said that racism is evil?"
In reality, virtually every major media outlet covered all three of Trump's responses to Charlottesville. But they did not, as he did on Tuesday night, omit mention of the controversial and scandalous ones.
Trump's rally on Tuesday night was probably not precisely what he wanted or expected, considering just how empty the convention center was towards the back ― whatever you think of Trump, during his candidacy he consistently drew massive, room-filling crowds, and was clearly quite proud of that fact.
At the Phoenix rally, however, the room was reportedly never full, and the crowd thinned as the night went on. That was the backdrop to Trump's repeated, fervent defenses of himself, which basically amounted to attacking the media for not accepting one of his three responses to the white supremacist violence as the truth, and letting his other two statements fade into the background.
Trump also used the opportunity to tease his potential pardoning of hyper-controversial ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted in 2016 for criminal contempt of a court order. Arpaio was notoriously cruel toward the undocumented immigrant population of Maricopa County throughout his tenure, and ultimately ignored a court order telling him to stop conducting sweeping, unconstitutional immigration raids.
After tweeting that "people got it" on Wednesday, some took the chance to remind him of just what he said — including his "many sides" remark.
While Trump didn't actually guarantee that he'd pardon Arpaio at the rally, he came about as close as he otherwise could, remarking that he wouldn't "do it tonight" in an effort to avoid controversy. Of course, given how wildly controversial the entire event was, that seems like a slightly strange excuse. But if he follows through with it, it'll be more fuel to the fire of allegations of white nationalism from the highest office in the land ― Arpaio's record in Arizona is basically inseparable from anti-Latino racism.