NEW YORK (CBS) — President Donald Trump is speaking out again amid the backlash over his response to the deadly Charlottesville protests.
The president clashed with reporters during an event on infrastructure at Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday afternoon.
“There was no way of making a correct statement that early,” Trump said.
Trump faced intense criticism on Saturday for failing to explicitly condemn the role of white supremacists during his initial statement on the tragedy.
Trump took aim at the counter protesters while speaking with reporters.
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this. What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do. So as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day,” Trump said.
Trump also questioned what monuments might be targeted next as protesters have called on cities to take down statues honoring Confederate figures.
“Is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself where does it stop?” Trump said.
He continued, “George Washington was a slave owner. So will George Washington lose his status? Are we gonna take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him, because he was a major slave owner. Are we gonna take down his statue? So it’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture and I’m not talking about the neo-nationalists or the neo-Nazis because they should be condemned totally. But you had people in that group other than neo-Nazis, other than white nationalists, ok? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”
Former KKK leader David Duke applauded Trump for his comments.
“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke tweeted.
The deadly rally in Charlottesville over the weekend was sparked as white nationalists protested the city removing a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
James Alex Fields is accused of ramming his car into counter-protesters, killing one person.
During his animated press conference, also touched on the job security of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
“I like Mr. Bannon, he’s a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that,” Trump explained. “I like him, he’s a good man, he’s not a racist I can tell you that, he’s a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he’s a good person and I think the press treats him very unfairly.”
Sources tell CBS News that Bannon’s job is in jeopardy and he could be gone by the end of the week.