During a Tuesday appearance on the Today show, Pence, 58, defended the president’s botched responses to the violence, which many have said didn’t going far enough to condemn white nationalists.
“I know this president. I know his heart and I heard him on the day that the Charlottesville tragedy happened when he denounced hate and violence in all of its forms from wherever it comes,” Pence told Matt Lauer.
“The president specifically denounced white supremacists, neo Nazis and the KKK repeatedly and he did it when he denounced hate and violence on Saturday. He did it in his address to the nation Monday and he did it again at a press conference.”
Pence’s comments come after a pre-planned “Unite the Right” rally erupted into violence on Aug. 12, with white supremacist protesters clashing with counter-protesters who were demonstrating against the event. A 20-year-old man police identified as James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of ramming his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Two state troopers were also killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the rally.
In the wake of the violence, Trump spoke out against the incident but did not explicitly lay blame on the white supremacists, instead insisting that “bigotry and hatred” was coming from “many sides.” After days of backlash, Trump attempted to change his tune last week, specifically naming the hate groups as he condemned racism. But the following day, he doubled down on his initial response blaming “both sides,” prompting even more backlash.
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“There was no moral equivalency drawn by the president,” Pence told Lauer when asked if he agreed with Trump’s claim that counter-protesters were at fault for the violence.
“I heard him on that Monday and I heard him as well on Tuesday like millions of Americans did where he condemned the hate and the bigotry,” he added. “He condemned the violence that was there and we’ll continued to do that.”
Many Republican, military and business leaders have rebuked Trump for his response, but Pence dismissed the backlash, saying, “We understand that criticism comes with this job.”