SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Pence says he is standing by President Trump in the aftermath of deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, but he declined Wednesday to defend the president’s statement from the day before that “both sides” were to blame.
Asked at a news conference whether he agreed with Trump that there were good people among the white supremacist demonstrators, and that there was blame to be had on both sides, Pence largely sidestepped the question.
“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy, and the president has been clear on this tragedy and so have I,” Pence said. “I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia, and I stand with the president, and I stand by those words.”
Pence also was asked and would not comment about Trump’s off-the-cuff comparison of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson with Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the first and third U.S. presidents.
On Sunday night in Cartagena, the Colombian port city where he opened his week-long trip to Latin America, Pence was asked about Trump’s initial response to the Charlottesville violence. The vice president was far more forceful in his denunciation that evening than was his boss on Saturday.
With Trump drawing intense criticism for failing to single out white supremacists following Saturday's events, Pence told reporters in Cartagena: “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.”
Pence made his Wednesday comments in Santiago following a bilateral meeting at the presidential palace with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. The two leaders delivered prepared remarks at a news event, and then Bachelet left the room without taking any questions from journalists. Pence remained at his lectern and answered questions from two U.S. journalists traveling with him, one about North Korea and one about Charlottesville.
“While I am here in Chile,” Pence said, “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. 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. And we’re also praying that in America that we will not allow the few to divide the many.”