Pence’s comments came during a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, where the vice president was asked to respond to criticism of the equivocal statement Trump delivered Saturday.
“What happened in Charlottesville is a tragedy,” Pence said, adding that it is “in no way a reflection of the good and decent people of Charlottesville or of America.”
Pence was measured in his remarks, delivered impromptu, as he sought to defend Trump’s response and testify to the president’s “heart,” as he put it, while also specifically disavowing what Trump would not — white supremacists.
“President Trump clearly and unambiguously condemned the bigotry, violence and hatred which took place on the streets of Charlottesville,” Pence said. After calling out white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK by name, Pence added, “The president also made clear that behavior by others or different militant perspectives also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse.”
Pence said Trump’s call was “sincere” and “from the heart,” and he criticized the news media for parsing the president’s words.
“I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetrated the violence to begin with,” Pence said. “We should be putting the attention where it belongs, and that is on those extremist groups that need to be pushed out of the public debate entirely and discredited for the hate groups and dangerous fringe groups that they are.”