On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump gave a press conference at Trump Tower in New York City in which he answered questions for the first time about white supremacist violence in Charlottesville. A full transcript is below.
Q: Why do you think the CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?
A: Because they’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing, in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country, they’re having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example. Take a look where—excuse me. Excuse me. Take a look at where their product is made. It’s made outside of our country. We want products made in the country. Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside. And I have been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you are referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.
Q: Why did you wait so long?
A: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement, but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the fact. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to my—in fact, I brought it. I brought it. I brought it.
Q: What did you bring?
A: As I said on—remember this, Saturday, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America.” Then I went on from there. Now, here’s the thing—excuse me, excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman, who I hear is a fantastic young woman, and it was an NBC, her mother wrote me and said, through I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman. But her mother, on Twitter, thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. Unlike you and unlike—excuse me. Unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.
Q: The CEO of Walmart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
A: Not at all. You take a look. I have created over a million jobs since I am president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We’re doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm, so the head of Walmart, whom I know, who’s a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean, I do it the same way. You know why? Because I want to make sure, when I make a statement, that the statement is correct. And there was no way—there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters—
Q: David Duke was there.
A: I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts, as they started coming out, were very well-stated. In fact, everybody said, his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts. It was very important—excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly, because if I would have made a fast statement—and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made after—with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things—excuse me. There are still things that people don’t know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts.
Q: Was this—two questions. Was this terrorism, and can you tell us how you are feeling about your chief strategist, Steve Bannon?
A: I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family, and his country. And that is—you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict, that’s what I’d call it, because there is a question, is it murder, is it terrorism. Then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer. What he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.
Q: Can you tell us how you’re feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon.
A: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.
Q: Do you still have confidence in Steve?
A: Look, I like Mr. Bannon. He’s a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him. He’s a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He is a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he is a good person, and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.
Q: They’ve called on you to defend your security adviser, H.R. McMaster, against these attacks.
A: I did it last time. Senator McCain? Senator McCain? You mean the one who voted against Obamacare? Do you mean Senator McCain, who voted against us getting good health care?
Q: Senate McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
A: Well, I don’t know—I can’t tell you. I am sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about. But when you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead. No, define it for me. Come on. Let’s go. Define it for me.
Q: Senator McCain defined them as the same groups.
A: What about the alt-left that came charging at the—as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this: What about the fact they came charging—that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I am concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, Fake News. That was a horrible day.
Q: Protesters on the same level as neo-Nazis …
A: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have—you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I’ll say it right now. You had a group—you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
Q: Do you think that what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
A: All those people—excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I have condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. And you look at some of the groups and you see—you know it if you are honest reporters, which in many cases you are not. But many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. Is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? But they were there to protest—excuse me. You take a look the night before. They were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question. Go ahead.
Q: Should statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?
A: I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government depending on where it’s located.
Q: How concerned are you about race relations in America? Do you think things have gotten better or worse since you took office?
A: I think they’ve gotten better or—look. They’ve been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that, because he made speeches about it. I believe the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs. You see where companies are moving back into our country. I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies I say pouring back into the country. I think it’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. When they have that, you watch how race relations will be. I’ll tell you, we are spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re fixing the inner cities. We are doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me. And it’s very important.
Q: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
A: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs. It was vicious and horrible. It was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side. There was a group on this side—you can call them the left. You just called them the left—that came violently attacking the other group. You can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.
Q: You said there was hatred and violence on both sides.
A: I think there is blame, yes, on both sides. You look at—you look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either. And, and, and, if you reported it accurately, you would say.
Q: Neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest the removal of the statue.
A: Excuse me. You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group—excuse me. Excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name. George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down—excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington?
How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of him? Do you like him? Okay. Good. Are we going to take down the statue? He was a major slave owner. Now we’re take down his statue. It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture. You had people—and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally—but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay, and the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had trouble-makers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad—you had a lot of bad people in the other group, too.
Q: Who was treated unfairly, sir? You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?
A: No, no. There were people in that rally. I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group who were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest. Because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country. A horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country. Does anybody have a final—you have an infrastructure.
Q: What makes you think you can get an infrastructure bill? You didn’t get health care—
A: Well, you know, I’ll tell you. We came very close with health care. Unfortunately John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You’ll have to ask John McCain why he did that. We came very close to health care. We will end up getting health care. But we’ll get the infrastructure. And actually, infrastructure is something that I think we’ll have bipartisan support on. I actually think, I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.
Q: Mr. President, have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car attack?
A: I will be reaching out. I will be reaching out.
Q: When will you be reaching out?
A: I was very—I thought the statement put out—the mother’s statement, I thought, was a beautiful statement. I must tell you, it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific. Really, under the kind of stress that she is under and the heartache that she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me is something I won’t forget. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.
Q: Do you plan to go to Charlottesville, Mr. President?
A: I own a house in Charlottesville. Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?
Q: Where is it?
A: Oh, boy—it’s gonna be—it’s in Charlottesville, you’ll see.
Q: Is it the winery?
A: It is the winery. I mean know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that’s been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in Charlottesville.
Q: What do you think needs to be done to overcome the racial divide?
A: I really think jobs can have a big impact. If we continue to create jobs. Over a million, substantially more than a million. And just the other day you see the car companies coming in, Foxconn. I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I am creating jobs, I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations.
Q: What you said today, how do you think that will impact the racial—
A: Because people are going to be working, they’re going to be making a lot of money, much more money than they ever thought possible. And the other thing, very important, I believe wages will start going up. They haven’t gone up for a long time. I believe wages now, because the economy is doing so well with respect to employment and unemployment, I believe wages will start to go up. I think that will have a tremendously positive impact on race relations.