President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on the news media at a campaign-style rally on Tuesday night and accused it of “fomenting” social and political divisions.
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"These are sick people," Trump told a riled up crowd in Phoenix on Tuesday. "If you wanted to discover the source of the division in our country, look no further than the fake news and the crooked media.
“It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions and yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage,” he added.
The attack came as Trump defended his response to the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month -- which began in protest of the planned removal of a monument of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee -- that left one dead and 19 injured after a car-ramming attack. Police arrested James Alex Fields, 20, and charged him with second-degree murder in the incident.
“They don't report the facts. Just like they don't want to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry and violence and strongly condemned the neo-nazis, the white supremacists and the KKK,” Trump said. “I openly called for unity, healing and love and they know it because they were all there.”
The president went on to recount his previous public statements on the violence in Charlottesville, slamming those who said that “he must be racist.”
“I don't want to bore you with this, but it shows you how dishonest they are,” he said before he read a version of his initial statement on Charlottesville that omitted the part of the statement that faulted “many sides” for the violence that occurred.
Not only does the media give a platform to hate groups, but the media turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets! pic.twitter.com/Mau0B1qYIP— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2017
Trump did not mention his previous comment that some "very fine people” were among the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who were protesting the removal of the Confederate-era statue.
Trump faced harsh criticism from political leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, over his initial response to last month's violence in Charlottesville and his failure to call out neo-Nazis and other hate groups by name.
At the rally on Tuesday, Trump said the news media had inaccurately reported his statements. The crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center appeared to agree with him as some yelled profanities and hurled insults at individual reporters throughout the night.
“I hit ’em with neo-Nazi,” Trump said as he defended his third statement on Charlottesville. "I hit ’em with everything. I got the white supremacist, the neo-Nazi. I got ’em all in there. Let’s see. KKK? We have KKK. I got ’em all. So they’re having a hard time. So what did they say, right? 'It should have been sooner; he’s a racist.'"
The president, however, did not acknowledge any of the politicians, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who also criticized his handling of the deadly Charlottesville protests.