Pence attacks the media for focusing on Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists

Vice President Mike Pence doubled down on President Donald Trump’s response to the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend and criticised the media’s focus on the equivocal nature of the president’s statement, in which he denounced violence “on many sides” rather than specifically condemning white supremacism.

“I will say I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticising the president’s words than they did criticising those that perpetrated the violence to begin with,” Pence, who is currently visiting Colombia, said during a joint press conference on Sunday evening with President Juan Manuel Santos.

“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,” he said.

Echoing the president’s sentiment, Pence laid blame for the violence on both the white supremacist marchers and the anti-racist protesters opposing them.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” Pence said, adding, “The president also made clear that behaviour by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse.”

Pence also sympathized with the Charlottesville community, calling the weekend’s events a “tragedy,” and expressed support for the Justice Department’s investigation of the violent perpetrators.

On Saturday, the president said in a televised statement, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” repeating, “on many sides.”

After facing widespread demands from prominent voices, including some Republicans, that the president explicitly denounce white supremacy, the White House released an unattributed statement naming the white supremacists groups who organised Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally among those that he condemns.

“The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred,” the statement read. “Of course that includes white supremacists, K.K.K. neo-nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

Others in the Trump administration have responded with variations on the president’s statement. Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and official White House adviser, tweeted on Sunday morning, “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis. We must all come together as Americans — and be one country UNITED. #Charlottesville.”