President Donald Trump defended himself against charges of racism at an appearance in Arizona on Aug. 22.
Speaking at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, the president defended his public statements following the "Unite The Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 13, reports the Daily Mail.
The rally, which the Southern Poverty Law Center described as "largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades in the United States," attracted thousands from neo-Nazi groups, the Ku Klux Klan and other far-right organizations.
The gathering was inspired by the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, formerly known as Lee Park.
Thousands of counter-protesters were also in attendance, and the event turned violent, culminating in one death and 19 injuries when alleged white supremacist James Alex Fields, Jr. allegedly drove into a crowd of counter-protestors.
Two Virginia state troopers also died when their helicopter crashed while responding to the violence, reported The New York Times.
Trump has been widely criticized for his response to the events at the rally.
According to a New York Times source, a wide range of advisers urged the president to sharply criticize the white nationalists, but instead he placed the blame "on many sides."
Two days later, on Aug. 21, Trump issued another statement in an attempt to defray the criticism, as reported by The Times.
“Racism is evil,” he said. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
At the Phoenix rally, Trump attacked the media, charging them for misrepresenting his statements on the events in Charlottesville.
Then he proceeded to dissect his previous statements, quoting himself at length.
"What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America," he said. "I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence, and forcefully condemned the white supremacists and the KKK … I said 'racism is evil.' Did they report that I said racism is evil? No? You know why? Because they are very dishonest people."
He said that "the only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news," adding that he believes "they really don't love our country."
He quoted his initial statement, in which he said "we condemn in the strongest personal terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence."
Reflecting on that quote, he declared: "You can't do much better, right?"
He also reminded the crowd that he used the word "thugs" when referring to hate groups in his second statement, though he refrained from calling them "losers," which has seemed to be his insult of preference in past speeches.
Trump concluded with a statement about the media: "You have some great networks. Fox has treated me fairly," he said, singling out Sean Hannity by name.