Trump Blames 'Dishonest Media' for Fallout Over Charlottesville Comments

At Phoenix rally, Trump lengthily defended his response to Charlottesville and threatened a government shutdown over building a border wall with Mexico

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona on August 22, 2017.
JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

President Donald Trump blamed the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white supremacists that led to the killing of a counter-protester at a political rally in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday.

He also threatened to shut down the federal government unless Congress provides funding for his promised border wall.

Telling his rally crowd in Phoenix, Arizona, that he has a message for "obstructionist" Democrats, he said, "If we have to close down our government, we're building that wall."

Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with a call for unity, saying, "What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence."

But he quickly trained his ire on the media, shouting that he "openly called for healing unity and love" in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville and claiming the media had misrepresented him. He read from his three responses to the violence — getting more animated with each one.

Democrats and fellow Republicans had denounced Trump for placing blame for the Charlottesville violence on "both sides," a comment which he ommitted from his statements at the rally.

Outside the Phoenix convention center, shouting matches and minor scuffles erupted between Trump supporters and protesters gathered near the rally site.

Police used smoke grenades and tear gas to disperse them after they started throwing objects at officers. "People in the crowd have begun throwing rocks and bottles at police. They also dispersed some gas in the area," Phoenix Police Department spokesman Sergeant Jonathan Howard said.

"Police have responded with pepper balls and OC [oleoresin capsicum] spray in an attempt to disperse the crowd and stop the assaults," he said. Police have not given an estimate of the number of protesters who turned out for the event, but Arizona media said there were several thousand people.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to delay his political event to allow for more time of national healing after Charlottesville.

Trump teased a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, asking the crowd what they thought of him. Loud cheers erupted. The former Maricopa County sheriff is awaiting sentencing after his conviction in federal court for disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols.

"So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" Trump asked. "I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine."