Pence ducks questions about Trump's controversial Charlottesville remarks

Pence declined to back the president's controversial remarks.

ByBENJAMIN SIEGEL
August 16, 2017, 5:14 PM

— -- Vice President Mike Pence declined Wednesday to defend President Trump’s controversial comments casting “blame on both sides” of the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend.

“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy,” Pence said in Santiago, Chile. “The president has been clear on that tragedy and so have I.”

Pence did not directly answer questions about whether he agrees with Trump’s comments that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the clashes in Charlottesville between white supremacists and counter-protesters.

“I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia,” Pence said in the midst of his trip through South America. “I stand with the president, and I stand by those words.

In Cartagena, Colombia on Sunday Pence condemned white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

“These dangerous fringe groups have no place in America public life or the public debate, and we condemn them in the strongest terms,” Pence said Sunday after the violence in Virginia.

On Wednesday, he also ignored questions about Trump’s comments about the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The white supremacist rally was initially prompted by plans to remove a statue of Lee in Charlottesville.

"George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status?” Trump asked reporters yesterday. "Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?”

Speaking after a meeting with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Pence acknowledged the memorial service for Heather Heyer -- the young woman killed Saturday by a car driven by a Nazi sympathizer that plowed into counter-protestors in Charlottesville.

“Today, while I am here in Chile, our hearts are in Charlottesville,” he said. “We've been praying for God’s peace and comfort for her family and her friends and her loved ones.”

“We're also praying that in America, that we will not allow the few to divide the many,” he said.

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