President Donald Trump repeatedly slammed the “very dishonest media” at a rally Tuesday night in Phoenix, accusing them of failing to accurately report his comments about Charlottesville, Virginia. The president then incorrectly recited those remarks, leaving out a comment he made implying that protesters against white supremacists were partially to blame for the violence that left one woman dead.
Trump also repeatedly accused a group of cameramen from various networks — including CNN, which he called out by name — of turning off their cameras to avoid broadcasting what he had to say. CNN broadcast the entire speech live.
“Oh that’s so funny, look back there,” Trump said, pointing to the cameras. “Those cameras are going off, oh wow. Why don’t you just fold them up and take them home? Oh, those cameras are going off. Wow. That’s the one thing, they’re very nervous to have me on live television because this can’t happen. You know what, I’m a person who wants to tell the truth, I’m an honest person and what I’m saying, you know, is exactly right.”
“I don’t want to bore you with this, but it just — it shows you how dishonest they are,” Trump said, pulling out a printout of his first statement on the Charlottesville rally last Saturday and reading it aloud to the audience. Trump had initially told reporters, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
In his recap at the rally, Trump left out the “on many sides” line and blamed the media for creating confusion.
“Why did it take a day? He must be a racist. It took a day,” Trump said, sarcastically imitating reporters’ reaction to his comments.
Trump also expressed his displeasure with the response to his second statement on Charlottesville, where he condemned several white supremacist groups by name before calling “some of them” “very fine people” a day later.
“I hit ’em with neo-Nazi, I hit ’em with everything,” Trump said, summarizing his approach for the Arizona crowd. “KKK? We have KKK. I got ’em all.”
Trump’s comments on topics other than Charlottesville were also stunning. He appeared to tease a plan to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt charges related to his “immigration sweeps.” (That news likely won’t surprise Arpaio, who told VICE News on Tuesday that he believed Trump would probably eventually pardon him.)
“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He should have had a jury. I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine,” Trump said. “But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy.”
And Trump pointedly addressed the Arizona Republicans who have undermined his legislative agenda. Coyly refusing to name names — at one point even pausing, raising his eyebrows, and giving what can only be described as a meaningful look — Trump took aim at Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake.
“One vote away, I will not mention any names — very presidential,” Trump said, referring toMcCain’s vote against the Republican healthcare plan, which derailed Trump’s agenda to repeal and replace Obamacare. “And nobody wants me to mention your other senator” — Flake — “who’s weak on border, weak on crime. Nobody knows who the hell is. See, I haven’t mentioned any names, so now everybody’s happy.”
The rest of Trump’s rally, however, was largely a retread of his greatest hits, from the wall – which he promised to build even “if we have to close down our government” to do it — to proclaiming his love of clean coal, which he mistakenly appeared to believe involved coal being physically cleaned, saying, “they’re taking out coal and they’re gonna clean it.”
He also addressed one of his most frequent topics of choice — the size of his crowds, which Trump repeatedly described as “incredible.” He mocked the size of the anti-Trump protests going on outside the rally, which reportedly drew thousands and ended with police firing flash bangs and pepper spray early Wednesday morning.