Trump Defends Response to Charlottesville Violence

President Donald Trump, surrounded by thousands of supporters on Tuesday, defended his response to the violence at a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, and attacked the media for “giving a platform to hate groups.”

Trump told the friendly crowd at the political rally in Arizona that his words in the aftermath of the Virginia event had been “perfect.”

He revved up the crowd with criticism of journalists, who he said did not report what he had said. Many in the crowd turned and pointed at reporters in the room. Some chanted “CNN sucks.”

Trump also suggested he might pardon Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt for violating the terms of a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case.

Arpaio, 85, lost a re-election bid last year in the county.

“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked, sparking loud applause and a chant of “Pardon Joe!”

“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked, before predicting that Arpaio would be just fine. “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy,” he said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters traveling with Trump on Air Force One earlier on Tuesday: “There will be no discussion of that today at any point and no action will be taken on that front at any point today.”

Trump drew broad criticism for blaming both white nationalists and counter-protesters for the deadly violence at the Charlottesville rally, which was organized by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. One woman was killed.

Protesters outside Tuesday’s rally yelled: “Shame, shame, shame” and “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA” as the Trump supporters began filing into the Phoenix Convention Center.

Supporters, who lined up for hours in the Arizona heat ahead of the event, chanted: “Build the wall,” a reference to Trump’s pledge to erect a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Many wore red hats with Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

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