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Pence Defends Trump’s Charlottesville Remarks

Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that he stood behind President Donald Trump’s condemnation of violence from both sides of the clash between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy, and the president has been clear on this tragedy and so have I,” Pence told reporters at a joint news conference with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

“I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia,” Pence said. “I stand by the president, and I stand by those words.”

A protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville turned deadly Saturday when a white supremacist drove a car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring more than a dozen.

The memorial service for Heather Heyer, the woman killed in the attack, was held earlier Wednesday.

“Today, while I’m here in Chile, our hearts are in Charlottesville, because just a few short hours ago, family and friends gathered to say farewell to a remarkable young woman, Heather Heyer,” Pence said.

“And we’ve been praying. We’ve been praying for God’s peace and comfort for her family and her friends and her loved ones.”

Trump received widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for refusing to name white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK in his initial response Saturday to the violence.

Trump instead blamed “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” for instigating the chaos, without mentioning any group by name.

Pence defended Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence Sunday, saying the president “clearly and unambiguously condemned” what happened.

“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,” Pence told reporters while traveling in Colombia.

On Monday, Trump clarified his remarks in a follow-up statement Monday:

“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said.

But Trump revisited his initial stance Tuesday, blaming both white supremacists and members of what he called the “alt-left” for provoking the violence in Charlottesville.