Vice President Mike Pence has voiced solidarity with President Donald Trump following the president's controversial remarks about a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Pence did not specify whether he supported Trump's assertion that both white nationalists and counter-protesters were equally to blame for the violence at the rally.
During an Aug. 16 press conference in Santiago, Chile, Pence was asked to comment on Trump's statements.
"What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy," Pence responded, according to ABC News. "The president has been clear on that tragedy and so have I."
The vice president added: "I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night ... I stand with the president, and I stand by those words."
On Aug. 11, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, waving torches while chanting racial epithets in the university town. On Aug. 12, more white nationalists joined the group to stage a rally, where they clashed with counter-protesters, The Washington Post reports.
Hostilities at the rally eventually turned deadly when white nationalist protester James Alex Fields Jr., 20, allegedly plowed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Virginia state troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates also died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the protests.
On Aug. 13, Pence released a statement during a diplomatic trip in Cartagena, Colombia.
"These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life or the public debate, and we condemn them in the strongest terms," Pence said.
Trump did not specifically condemn the white nationalists until Aug. 14. The next day, the president asserted that both the white supremacists and the counter-protesters were to blame for the violence, referring to the counter-protesters as the "alt-left."
"You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent ... I think there is blame on both sides," Trump said.
The president added that he did not believe that all of the participants in the white nationalist rally were racists.
"You had some very bad people in that group," Trump continued. "But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides ... And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly."
Though Pence voiced support for Trump, several GOP lawmakers blasted the president's remarks.
"Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer," said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, according to CNN. "I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency."
"Mr. President, you can't allow [white supremacists] to share only part of the blame," tweeted GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
"White supremacy, bigotry & racism have absolutely no police in our society & no one -- especially POTUS -- should ever tolerate it," tweeted GOP Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas.
House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin also commented via Twitter: "White supremacy is repulsive... There can be no moral ambiguity."
On Aug. 15, the White House circulated a talking points memo to Trump media allies and GOP operatives asserting that the president's comments were factually correct, Fox News reports.
The memo stated that Trump was right to equally attribute responsibility to the white nationalists and counter-protesters and urged members of the media and the Republican Party to "join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division."