US President blames media for his country's deepening division

PHOENIX (Arizona) • President Donald Trump has delivered an angry and forceful defence of his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, declaring at a campaign-style rally of supporters here that the news media had distorted his position.

Addressing thousands of supporters on Tuesday evening at the Phoenix Convention Centre, Mr Trump accused major media organisations of being "dishonest" and of failing "to report that I spoke out forcefully against hatred, bigotry".

Mr Trump spent more than 20 minutes of a 75-minute speech delivering a selective account of his handling of the violence in Charlottesville, where he overlooked his initial statement blaming "many sides", as well as his subsequent remarks that there were good people marching alongside the white supremacists.

As the rest of the Republican party was eager to move on from Charlottesville, where one counter- demonstrator was killed and 19 people were wounded, Mr Trump seemed like he could not wait to go back and rehash one of the worst weeks of his presidency - even carrying his much maligned initial statement to the podium.

The controversy sparked intense objections from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and prompted an exodus of corporate executives from White House business advisory panels.

Removing his earlier statements about the Charlottesville violence from his jacket pocket, Mr Trump on Tuesday ticked off a list of racist groups that he had been urged to explicitly denounce and ultimately did two days after the clashes.

But he said the news media quoted him selectively, accused him of responding too late, and ignored his message of unity.

"I hit 'em with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there. Let's see. KKK, we have KKK," Mr Trump said sardonically of his rebuke to Charlottesville racists, after being faulted for failing to condemn those groups in his initial response on the day of the clashes. "It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions," he said. "They're very dishonest people.

"The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news," he said.

BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'US President blames media for his country's deepening division'. Print Edition | Subscribe