Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday evening criticized the media for its coverage of President Donald Trump’s remarks Saturday on the violence in Charlottesville, VIrginia.
Speaking during a visit to the South American nation of Colombia, Pence said that it was appropriate to criticize not only the white supremacists behind the "Unite the Right" march but also counter-protesters on the scene.
"I will say I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetrated the violence to begin with," he said, speaking in a joint news conference with Colombia’s 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."
In his Saturday statement, Trump condemned the violence but made it clear he blamed not only the white supremacists but also others on the scene. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," the president said. He then repeated "on many sides."
Pence clarified that neither he nor the president intended to let the white supremacist groups off the hook for their behavior or their attitudes.
"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," he said.
Critics assailed the president for setting up a false equivalence, particularly since the worst of the mayhem was caused by a driver associated with the white supremacists who, police said, drove into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman, a 32-year-old paralegal named Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 other people. The driver, a 20-year-old Indiana man named James Alex Fields Jr., has been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes.
In his remarks Sunday, the vice president made it clear that he also had no sympathy for the groups that confronted the white supremacists as they marched.
"The president also made clear that behavior by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse."
Pence also backed the Department of Justice’s efforts to see that those responsible for the violence during the weekend would be prosecuted, as well as offering sympathy and support for the Charlottesville community.
“What happened in Charlottesville is a tragedy," he said. "Charlottesville, Virginia, is a beautiful community, a university town with a rich heritage. President Santos’ son just graduated from the University of Virginia, and the president himself spoke on that campus. What occurred there, as local and state officials have said, is in no way a reflection of the good and decent people of Charlottesville or of America."