President Donald Trump on Tuesday attempted to rewrite his handling of the U.S.'s largest hate rally in a decade, taking aim at the media during a meandering hour-and-a-half campaign-style speech.
"The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news," Trump told jubilant supporters in Arizona.
The American president has been widely criticized for his response to the Charlottesville, Virginia hate rally and the violent clashes with counter-protesters.
Trump read off three presidential statements he delivered in the wake of the August 11-12 rally, complaining that the media doesn't report on them and saying his "words were perfect."
But he omitted a key line that sparked mass criticism shortly after the hate rally.
One of his original statements condemning the violence ended by blaming "both sides", appearing to equivocate the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members who amassed in the southern town with those who came to protest their hate rally. He further omitted mention of a statement that he delivered the following Tuesday, blaming "many sides" for the violence.
The lightning rod was omitted when Trump read out the statement Tuesday night, likely due to the fact that it drew stern rebuke, including from prominent members of Trump's party.
"What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America. And tonight, this entire arena stands united against the thugs who perpetrate hatred and violence," Trump said. "I strongly condemn neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK."
Trump further hinted strongly that he will pardon a former Arizona sheriff awaiting sentencing for violating a court order to refrain from racially profiling Latinos during patrols and turning them over to federal immigration authorities.
"I think he’s going to be just fine, but I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy," he said. "But Sheriff Joe (Arpaio) can feel good.”
Following the conclusion of Trump's speech, things turned rowdy outside the Phoenix Convention Center as police deployed tear gas to quell protesters who were throwing objects in their direction.