President Donald Trump sparked another controversy on Thursday when he reiterated his belief that people resisting white supremacists were just as much to blame for violence as the white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Va. last month.
His comments came when describing a meeting on Wednesday with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the lone African American Republican in the Senate, who had sharply criticized the President’s response to the events in Charlottesville.
“I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One on Thursday, referring to the anti-fascists that have pushed back against neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
Antifa is not an formal group, but there are grassroots organizers in many locations that identity with the movement and often protest against fascism and various forms of oppression. Some antifa protestors use militant tactics or violence to fight for their causes, which has caused controversy. But they also point out that they have been targeted by violence themselves.
In the aftermath of Charlottesville, Trump often changed his position, initially condemning bigotry but not specific hate groups, then later calling out white supremacists, KKK members and neo-Nazis, only to revert to his initial position and blame “both sides” for the weekend’s events. An anti-racism protester was killed there after
This equivocating caused Scott, the first black Senator elected from the South since Reconstruction, to sharply criticize the President’s response to the deadly clashes in Charlottesville. After the two men met for 40 minutes on Wednesday, Scott told reporters he was “pleasantly surprised” that Trump listened to him and thought about his Charlottesville comments, according to CNN.
“I didn’t go in there to change who he was,” Scott said Thursday, according to the network. “I wanted to inform and educate a different perspective. I think we accomplished that and to assume that immediately thereafter he’s going to have an epiphany is just unrealistic.”
Still, the President seemed bolstered by other opinions on the matter, telling reporters that he’s heard from people who agree with his assessment of equal blame.
“Now because of what’s happened since then, with Antifa, you look at, you know, really what’s happened since Charlottesville — a lot of people are saying — in fact a lot of people have actually written, ‘Gee Trump might have a point.’ I said, ‘You got some very bad people on the other side also,’ which is true.”