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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Defends Racist Protesters: "Fine People On Both Sides"; WH Official On Trump Remarks: "That Was All Him, Wasn't Our Plan". Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 15, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- in the situation room. Erin Burnett OutFront starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next, breaking news, President Trump off the rails defending racist protesters in a complete about face.
Plus, condemnation, the reaction across the nation swift and savage. Is anyone besides the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke behind Donald Trump tonight?
And white nationalists emboldened, threatening more protests.
Let's go OutFront.
Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, the breaking news, the real President Trump raging, railing and adlibbing an extraordinary outburst exposing the president's real feelings about the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president of the United States now defending and seemingly advocating for neo-Nazis and white supremacists in a free willing and contentious exchange with the media.
It was spectacle and it completely contradicted what Trump did, under great pressure yesterday which was too condemn hate groups like the KKK by name. Here is President Trump today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the -- as you say the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, sir, sir --
TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But sir --
TRUMP: You know, as far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir you're not putting these protesters on the same level as neo- Nazis and Klans men.
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched this 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 on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: By alt-left, the president means those who confronted the racist hate groups over the weekend. The racist hate groups who of course had sought the permits for their rally to begin with.
Now, Trump was wound up and the remarks that he made came fast and furious. His staff was watching, sort of arms crossed as Trump doubled and tripled down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And every turn, Trump unraveled the carefully crafted message that he read from a teleprompter yesterday. Let me just remind you because it is so very different what he did say to the nation yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry, strike at the very core of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Racist hate groups are repugnant and then he named them, neo-Nazis, the KKK. That was yesterday. Today it was a very different world.
Trump blaming both sides. And his stunning turn did not go unnoticed by the former grand wizard for the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke who tweeted moments after the president's press conference, quote, thank you President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in Black Lives Matter Antifa which is a reference to anti-fascists.
Of course, let's be clear, there was a terror act committed in Charlottesville this weekend by a neo-Nazi. And let's be clear who Trump was defending today when he talked about good people on both sides.
Vice, the news group, was embedded with the, quote, Unite the Right, that's the group on Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville. Listen to yourself what these people were saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWDS: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us. Blood and soil! Blood and soil!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously, you can hear there the words of Nazis, the torches from the Ku Klux Klan, you will not replace us, of course a reference to blacks, Jews, one or the other, both.
[19:05:00] So now we know, Donald Trump did not mean what he said yesterday when he condemned racist groups by name and called them repugnant when he read off the teleprompter because the teleprompter was written by, well, we don't know who. But we know today Donald Trump said what he really thinks.
Sara Murray is OutFront in Washington. And Sara, the president sat clearly from your reporting, Jeff Zeleny's reporting, had no idea that this was coming today.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Erin. This was not the plan today. It caught staff members by surprise and one White House official told Jeff Zeleny, well, this was all him. This was all Trump.
Sources are also telling us that the president has been very irritable over the last 24 hours. He looked at the media reaction to the statement he made on Monday and basically was frustrated that in his mind the media still said it was not sufficient, that it didn't go far enough. Obviously, that anger spilled out into public today in what was sort of a rambling press conference there and was much closer to the comments that Trump initially had made over the weekend equivocating, saying both sides shared culpability with this.
Now, one person who is frustrated of how today played out, Chief of Staff John Kelly. That's what a source tells me.
There are those images of Kelly standing by, the newly minted chief of staff on the sidelines while President Trump speaks. He has a very stern look on his face. His arms are crossed. Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Sara Murray, thank you very much. And you heard Sara's reporting, Chief of Staff Kelly is frustrated along with certainly -- it appears other members of the president's senior staff. Marc Lamont Hill as our political commentator, BET News host, April Ryan is White House for American Urban Radio Networks, Nia-Malika Henderson as out senior political reporter, and Doug Brinkley, he's of course presidential historian.
April, let me start with this point. The president's top advisers thought he would, quote, turn a corner today and talk about infrastructure. That is what we were supposed to be talking about.
A senior official told our Jeff Zeleny, quote, this was all him. This wasn't our plan. He went off by himself.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: He went off by himself and you saw who the president really was. This president, as we saw for the last couple of days, he's been angry. And as we talked about last night, we saw those tweets that he was attacking and railing against the Merck CEO, who's an African- American.
You know, I talked about, you know, wondering what David Duke would say. (INAUDIBLE) what David Duke wanted. This president showed who he was and now he's promoting or supporting his base. But the rest of America, the vast majority that disapprove are very much in disapproval.
I mean, I talked to various African-American Republicans today who are very upset with this administration and what the president had to say. I mean, I've talked to so many people from so many different corners. People -- Jewish Americans who live and work and have shops in Charlottesville, they're very upset.
This president probably will have to come back and address what he means and what he says from today's press conference. Just so much, infrastructure, ACA, repeal and replace, anything right now, is not -- unless it's North Korea or Russia, maybe not even that.
Right now, this is the story and this is going to follow him for a while. This is something that this nation has been dealing with for hundreds of years and this president just opened up a Pandora's Box yet again.
BURNETT: And Nia, it was completely off the rails. And you could see with the crossed arms of General Kelly, the stern look on his aides' faces, this is not what they wanted, this is not what they expected, and I think very important, especially when you're talking about General Kelly as we can see there watching. He had no control over the president.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. But in many ways they should have expected this, right? I mean, surely the president has been fuming in public or in private about how he really feels about Charlottesville. Surely they knew that they had to force the president to stick to a teleprompter message yesterday and they knew he felt very differently.
So this idea that somehow this wasn't part of their plan, they send the president out there. And remember, as he's out there he has his statement, right? At some point he reads a statement from Saturday. So he, it seems, was very much prepared for this. And certainly seemed to sort of relish the moment.
So, this sort of notion of they weren't expecting this or they weren't prepared for this, they worked in this White House, all of those aides for many, many months and certainly John Kelly, I imagine has been privy to what the president has thought really about Charlottesville. So this is just absurd. I mean, it's a dereliction of duty, this idea that somehow they didn't know --
BURNETT: To think that they'll be able to control the impulse (INAUDIBLE) what he was suppose to say?
BURNETT: Marc, why do you think the president did it? Right? We know it took him 48 hours to come out and say the KKK and neo-Nazis were repugnant, racism is evil, all the things he said yesterday.
[19:10:02] Why did he backtrack so completely and so aggressively today?
MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because the president has been fuming as Nia-Malika Henderson said at the idea that he had to publically give that statement. What you saw today was bizarre mixed of narcism and arrogance and denial and good old fashion white male rage.
He resented having to address white supremacy. He resented having to acknowledge that racism existed. And that he may have done something wrong. He does not ever want to be held accountable.
And so when he was finally held accountable with that message yesterday or 48 hours later, he now resented it. And so any question that anyone asked Donald Trump about that topic was going to lead to this type of outburst.
BURNETT: So was it just that that he was mad that he was forced to do something or is it that his true feelings on race came out? Which is it, Mark?
HILL: I think it's a little bit of everything. I mean, on the one hand, Donald Trump isn't really known for having a coherent world view. Donald Trump says one thing one day, something else another day. Whatever plays to his base, whatever plays to the cheap seats, he is willing to do.
I think Donald Trump felt like he didn't need to be accountable to anyone, and that he didn't do anything wrong. There were moments in the speech though where he speaks out about the statue and saying, well, who's next, George Washington.
I mean, those are signals, not just about what he thinks about race which is important but also signals to his bas. He's sending a kind of smoke signal to his base, that no matter what I said yesterday or the day before, I'm still accountable to you. I still value you as a base, even though you are the alt-right and that's the dangerous part.
BURNETT: And I want to play that in just a moment but first, let me just talk about the response here from KKK, neo-Nazis. Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader who headlined the rally in Charlottesville tweeted tonight of Trump, quote, I'm proud of him for speaking the truth.
And again, the David Duke tweet very quick after the press conference. He says, thank you, President Trump for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM Antifa.
He has gotten praise from these individuals before. But he slammed them yesterday. And then today, back on their side. Doug, what's going on?
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Look, Donald Trump blew up like a volcano today. It was an utter disaster of a press conference. He now has zero moral credibility with the majority of Americans and he's become a bedfellow of people like David Duke in history.
We look at Donald Trump where at seeing him we keep saying it's unprecedented. What other president I get asked would behave like this? No other president would behave like that.
Donald Trump is par with people like David Duke, with Joe McCarthy, with George Wallace, with Gerald LK. Smith, meaning, he's willing to deal in hate mongering, anything to divide the country. Many ways Trump supporters are old George Wallace voters and Donald Trump seems to know nothing about history.
He's trying to re-litigate today the Civil War. He was weeping crocodile tears for Stonewall Jackson. He didn't seem to understand that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are in a different category because they served their country nobly than people that were treasonous like Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
BURNETT: So let me play that because the president tried today to equate neo-Nazis and counter-protesters, we know that. He also tried to say, though, that what this was about was taking down confederate war memorials and not about white supremacy, right? Conflating those two issues as well. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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 Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue because he was a major slave owner? Now, we're going to take down his statue. So, you know what, it's fine. You're changing history, you're changing culture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRINKLEY: Look, it was nauseating to have to listen to that. You know, I spoke a little bit ago, Erin, to Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans. (INAUDIBLE) on the airwaves but he's dealing with the flood crisis right now and he told me the same guys, Duke, you know, all of these neo-Nazis people were there when he took down a Robert E. Lee statue in New Orleans.
He gave an amazing speech, Mitch Landrieu, and gave us a kind of road map of how to confront this alternative right movement that is erupting around the country. And I don't think it's a Democrat versus Republican thing going right now. It is about a fringe group of Americans that have a president willing to speak their language and do their bidding and be a king of nods and winks towards bigotry.
BURNETT: And I won't ask you what this comes to in a moment Doug, but first, April, let me just to -- you know, this is -- just to be clear here, there -- many Republicans are coming out and making it very clear.
[19:15:06] There is no moral equivalency here, OK, between KKK, neo- Nazis, and counter-protesters. Paul Ryan, the speaker just said, "We must be clear here. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity."
Marco Rubio, I thought laid it out pretty beautifully. It took six tweets but it's worth listening everyone. He starts, "The organizers of events which inspired and led to Charlottesville terrorist attack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons. They're adherents of an evil ideology which argue certain people are inferior because of race, ethnicity, or nation of origin. When an entire movement is built on anger and hatred towards people different than you, it justifies and ultimately leads to violence against them.
These groups today use the same symbols and same arguments of Nazi and KKK, groups responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity ever. Mr. President, you can't allow white supremacists to just share only part of the blame. They support ideal which cause nation and world so much pain.
The white supremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of the blame as a win. We cannot allow this old evil to be resurrected."
April, at what point does one of the senators, Congress people, abandoned the president for good?
RYAN: And see, that's the point. These tweets, these words are great and I'm hearing from so many African-American leaders, people in the Jewish community, they're saying, you know, it's wonderful to say these things but when are you going to do something about it. And that's the issue.
And, you know, I'm going back to the campaign. When this president was running for president, he was using words that were code to his crowd that, you know, make American great for some people that was code. Take it back to when? What time period? What's he talking about.
And seeing what happened this weekend, so many people are very upset. Words are one thing, but it takes action to stop this. What kind of action? We don't know. But a lot of leaders are very upset.
The words are flowery from Republicans, from Democrats, from whomever. Now, it's about action.
And the problem, Erin is, when the president going back to the issue of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, yes, they had slaves. OK, we know this, history wrote it. He got that part right, but the issue is the fact that the president is saying these things to help gene up his base so they can keep the fight going for what they want, for what they want to reclaim and there is spillage.
He is the moral leader, whether he wants to be the moral leader or not. And he says that the economy will fix the race problem and race relations are better. No, it's not, it is worst and frayed, it's divided. His own party is coming out against him.
BURNETT: Nia, does this matter when it comes to his base? I mean, does his presidency end in any way for any of them? Or are you looking at trying to make an argument that 30% of America, whatever his base is, are all racists?
HENDERSON: I mean, I doubt that. I mean, I don't know. I mean, I think, you know, it comes down I think to this point to tribalism.
He is a Republican, those folks are Republican. They voted for Donald Trump in many ways excusing some of his racist and sexist comments. And so I think we'll probably see some of that maintained.
I do think those Republicans -- in many ways, those words from Marco Rubio, I think they're strong but they're also little tepid. I mean, let's remember Marco Rubio called Barack Obama one of the most divisive figures in modern history. He said that Obama, when he visited a mosque, was seeking to divide the country.
So all of these Republicans have come out with these tweets. Some of them don't even name Trump. He did and he called him Mr. President, Marco Rubio. But he had very tough words for President Obama, condemning him.
I think Marco Rubio once claimed Obama was trying to destroy the country and certainly many Republicans were on that bandwagon. So these are so -- you know, what they're coming out with is pretty tepid, given that the president of the United States essentially just exonerated white supremacists in his statements today. BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much. I appreciate it.
And next, more of our breaking news. President Trump's about face, saying there were very bad people on both sides in Charlottesville. We take a closer look at just who was in Charlottesville.
Plus, strong reaction from both sides of the aisle. Republican congressman from Virginia is my guest.
And more business executives quitting working with Trump. All of them over his handling of the Charlottesville situation. Will more CEOs drop out tonight?
[19:23: 07] BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump lashing out tonight at what he calls the alt-left saying they incited some of the violence of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Speaking to reporters at Trump Tower, the president doubled down on his idea that there is blame for both.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What about the alt-left that came charging at the -- as you say the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, sir, sir --
TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: CNN's Sara Sidner is OutFront. And Sara, so let's get at this. When the president is talking about the alt-left that he says were charging with clubs, right, who are these people? What were they doing?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's specifically talked about those people dressed in black and there is a group called anti-fathers. A group of people within that group, the anti-fascist who call themselves black wolf and they do show up and they do sow destruction. They've done it in Berkeley. We have seen that play out in the west a lot.
They come out and their ideas are that nonviolence hasn't worked and so they are going to use violence against anyone who they see as fascist or neo-Nazis, or white supremacists, and they go after them in a violent way. That is something the president should condemn.
Here's the problem though, he did not mention that some of the fighting was certainly from white supremacists themselves who are going after these people, and I think there are two questions that President Trump have to answer.
One, are you the president of America or are you the president of the alt-right? Are you only worried about your base with the things that he said today? And two, who are the people that were very fine people in that group holding tiki torches, walking along the streets, looking like an upscale KKK rally screaming (INAUDIBLE) and talking anti- Jewish, anti-gay, anti-black. Who were those very good people there?
[19:25:02] Who were they because I don't think anyone in that group, holding those tiki torches and screaming their brains out and saying the most vile things, I'm not sure you could find someone who is a very good person in that crowd.
BURNETT: Right, and certainly, we've seen whether it's Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio and we'll see many others, and I'm obviously mentioning Republicans to make a point here. All of them saying that there is no moral equivalency when you're the group that came to sow the violence, you're the group that filed the permit, you're the group that wanted to be there. Let's be clear where the blame lies as we just saw from Marco Rubio.
All right, stay with me, Sara, because I want to bring in the conversation to Wes Bellamy, the vice mayor of Charlottesville, and Ben Ferguson, a conservative radio host.
Vice Mayor, you know, you just heard obviously Sara laying out the groups here. The president is clearly putting part of the blame on what he calls the alt-left and you heard Sara say certainly, when they sow destruction that should be condemned. But what is your response to the president blaming the alt-left in part?
VICE MAYOR WES BELLAMY, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: Well, thank you for having me and once again before I begin, I would like to send my deepest condolences to the families of Sister Sara -- excuse me, Sister Heather as well as the police officers who lost their lives this tragic weekend.
Now, to answer your question, I am just utterly disgusted and dismayed and extremely disappointed with 45's response. I think 45 today truly showed us what he hasn't shown us enough times before exactly who he is.
I was holding out a glimmer of hope that he would continue on his path of condemning these white supremacists, but to coin and create a new term such as the alt-left and condemn groups who came with clubs and things of that nature, who quite frankly, hearing from some of the clergy members who are praying at the rally on Saturday, they say (INAUDIBLE) like Antifa or things of that nature, they may not be alive today.
(INAUDIBLE) very clearly, if not for Antifa, he may not be alive. And today, 45 came out and plainly not even accept any kind of responsibility, condemn the groups at all, but yet try to make excuses. Unfortunately, it seems as if we're not dealing with a president, we're dealing with a child who's in a grown man's body, who somehow some way has come to the greatest office in the land and I'm disappointed.
BURNETT: I want to -- when you talk about 45 you're talking about President Trump and I want to get at that in your word in a moment. But let me just -- before I do that Ben, give you a chance to respond to the point that the vice mayor is making.
Some of the people involved to this violent protest in Charlottesville. Richard Spencer, leader of the alt-right movement called Martin Luther King Jr. a fraud. David Duke, former KKK grand wizard, founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, Jason Kessler, white nationalist responsible for organizing the protest.
Vice News was embedded with the white nationalists and they spoke to some of the people at the rally. I want to play more of what they had to say. This is about the president and his daughter Ivanka.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL, WHITE NATIONALIST LEADER: I'm here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that. Somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew.
ELLE REEVE, VICE NEWS TONIGHT CORRESPONDENT: So Donald Trump but like more racist.
CANTWELL: And lot more racist than Donald Trump. I don't think that you could feel about race the way I do and watch that Kushner pastor walk around with that beautiful girl.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, these are sick, mentally disturbed individuals. And it's very clear that they are pathetic and disgusting human beings. I'm trying to use my words appropriately for T.V. because the words I want to use, I can't use here.
Let's be clear. We have to be, you know, have to be to have a real conversation about the fact that there is people on both sides that want a race war in this country. There were people that were in this man's group that are disgusting and violent human beings that want a race war. They love this. They love the fact their message just got out on national T.V.
And I -- it makes me so frustrated because they're now able to get their message out and seem bigger than they really are. At the same time, they're the anti-fascists. Some of them showed up. And this has nothing to do with the -- an equivalency to these vile and disgusting and sick and perverted and mentally disturbed individuals that showed up on the other side. They use spray paint cans as fire torches. They had bats and they went in there to create a race war in this country and to make it look bigger than it is. And I think that --
BELLAMY: What would you do if people had guns? What would you do if people were aiming guns at you? AK-47s and AR-15s at a rally?
FERGUSON: Who was aiming a gun at somebody? Open carry is different than aiming a gun at somebody. I think you need to be careful with your words.
BELLAMY: No. There has been video of individuals who were pointing guns at people in the crowd. I saw it with my own two eyes today. Don't tell me what I saw. So you --
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- different than aiming a gun at somebody.
[19:30:03] I think you need to be careful with your words.
WES BELLAMY, VICE MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: No, no. There has been video -- no, there has been video of individuals --
FERGUSON: Sir --
BELLAMY: -- who were pointing guns at people in the crowds. I saw it with my own two eyes today. Don't tell me what I saw.
FERGUSON: So, you're saying that then, you think that then you go after them with a bat? You go after them with a bat? Is that what you're saying? You go after them with a blow torch?
Is that -- are you saying that the violence is justified? Is that what you're saying? Is the violence on both sides justified? Because I don't think any of it is justified.
BELLAMY: You're justifying the actions of these individuals by talking about this anti-left or any group who you're describing.
FERGUSON: I'm not justifying them.
BELLAMY: No, you let me finish. You're justifying their actions by you bringing up the fact that some individuals had bats while other individuals were walking around as you proclaim open carrying with guns who were trying to clearly trying to send very clear signs of intimidation to different people. Who are the thugs or who are these individuals that you're talking about?
Is it a person, is it a person like myself who today I have on t- shirt, I have on necklaces and I have on earrings? Are these the same people who you see in the comments section of CNN and whatnot? This is the same people who -- FERGUSON: Let me respond.
BELLAMY: And now, you are empowering and emboldening them by giving them air time is also saying that, well, we should also condemn the anti-left. No, the alt left did not kill a young woman on Saturday. So, stop it.
FERGUSON: I agree with you. I agree with you. Let me respond to what you are saying because it is important.
BELLAMY: You know what you're doing is right.
FERGUSON: Listen, listen, the fact of the matter is, we should be able to have a conversation without someone saying that you're defending them by being honest about you had individuals, agitators who were actively wanting a race war.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Ben, what about Marco Rubio's point? What about Marco Rubio's point? The organizers of events which inspired and led the Charlottesville terrorist attack are 100 percent to blame for a number of reasons which he then proceeds to very eloquently lay out, right?
I mean, Ben, would you deny that? Sure, bad people could exist on both sides.
FERGUSON: I totally agree with Marco Rubio.
BURNETT: OK. So, that means you are admitting the blame lies on the people who were there for the alt right? You are admitting that?
FERGUSON: Erin, let's be clear, the alt right that was there, they obviously went there with intent to start a race war and to build their message and to use the media to recruit new members, and they killed somebody. That is -- that is completely stand-alone on its own point.
There is no reason to act like that there were also some people that showed up to respond to their bigotry, their hatred and racism, saying they wanted a race war. I don't think that should be out-of-bounds. I can sit here and rewind to a night in this city
FERGUSON: Let me finish -- where there were people in the Black Lives Matter movement that walked around with the same guns in Dallas the night multiple police officers were shot. It's not OK. You should be able to talk about both situations and it not necessarily be that somehow you are saying that one side is somehow less responsible.
The white supremacists were responsible for this. They started it. But we have to be able to have an honest conversation that there are people on both extreme sides that want a race war in this country.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can I jump in there? You mentioned something, and sorry, gentlemen, I think it is important to make a couple of points.
Ben, you mentioned something about Black Lives Matter walking around with guns after police officers were shot in Dallas. I was there in Dallas. I saw maybe one person with a gun. But I will tell you that Black Lives Matter had nothing to do with that.
In fact, the person that was eventually brought to account and killed who shot all of those police officers was actually acting on his own and he was a former soldier. So I think we need to be very clear about that. I think a lot of times someone will say Black Lives Matter is just as much a terror organization as the KKK, and that is utter nonsense.
FERGUSON: That's actually not what I'm saying.
SIDNER: I want to say one more thing. It brought up a lot and I don't think it's fair. But I want to say a couple more things.
One thing is that the president spoke today and we were all listening. People were riveted by this, right? They were riveted by this. And I think one of the things that came out that was very clear is that this time, he was so passionate. He was not like he was the day before where he was given a very scripted message that he stuck to.
SIDNER: It looked like today he was telling the truth and how he really feels, and that's how America saw it.
BELLAMY: His truth.
SIDNER: His truth. And there are a lot of people he hurt with that. I will tell you I have been on the phone today with people whose family members were killed by white supremacists and they are terrified after hearing from the president who is supposed to be bringing people together. That's problematic.
FERGUSON: Let me say two things here.
FERGUSON: The point I was making about black lives matter and the guy with the gun walking around is, there were people that will put themselves in a situation with normal peaceful protesters with the one intent which is to become violent or enrage people.
[19:35:09] BELLAMY: When, Ben? When, Ben? When?
FERGUSON: I just described it. There are people that show up to these things and they want a race war in this country.
(CROSSTALK) BELLAMY: She was here and there was only one person --
FERGUSON: I was here the night it happened. There was more than one person with a gun. You do not know what you are talking about.
BURNETT: One at a time. Go ahead.
FERGUSON: Wes, you made a lot of mistakes in your life with tweets. One, you don't call the president the president. You call him 45. You think you're bringing people together? You think that's bringing people together.
BELLAMY: Forty-five is who he is and that's who he's going to remain in my eyes.
FERGUSON: You tweeted out things in your life when you make mistakes I'm assuming. You said that women should be able to be -- it is not a sexual assault if they're semi-awake. You tweeted that out. People -- this is my point. It is in your tweets, man. It is in your tweets.
FERGUSON: My point is, you were an agitator at that point in your life, right? You were an agitator. You said you hated white people. You were an agitator at that point in your life.
There are people just like you back in your 20s show up at these rallies to be agitators and to start a race war. When you tweet out you hate white people, that is starting a race war. It's not loving in kind. You made mistakes and you know that people did the same thing at this rally.
BELLAMY: There is a difference. There is a difference.
BURNETT: Go ahead, Vice Mayor I'll give you a chance to respond and then to our viewers, you did talk about this yesterday. We show some of these tweets. Go ahead, Vice Mayor.
BELLAMY: Yes, ma'am. Here is the difference in the two. You can't bring up a point and saying you want to have an honest dialogue and conversation without accepting accountability.
The difference between myself, yourself and obviously these other individuals that you seem to be talking about, or you were like to compare me to, is that I'm more than willing to not only admit my mistakes, take accountability for them, but also graciously give credit where it's due to the individuals of the city of Charlottesville who helped me mature and grow as a man. What y you're doing is making excuses and there is no accountability when you say --
FERGUSON: I didn't make an excuse for everybody tonight.
BELLAMY: No, you let me finish. What you need to do is let me finish. What you just did just now is allow these individuals a way without because when you make comments and you make parallels and say, yes, we know what they did was wrong, but and you bring up that conjunction word, but, because I am a doctor of education, but saying we still need to blame or place blame or put somehow some way --
FERGUSON: We need to have a real conversation.
BELLAMY: No, you need to be quiet and let me talk. When you do that, that removes all the pain that the other individuals feel. Because what you are doing is trying to take away the blame from where it belongs. That is what so many people of the people in this country are disappointed with 45 because what he did is show how he truly feels.
BURNETT: Let me just ask you a question here.
BELLAMY: I'm ashamed to say he's my president.
BURNETT: OK, all right. So, on that point --
FERGUSON: You're ashamed he's your president. Way to bring the country together.
BURNETT: Hold on, Ben, one second, because I'm giving you a chance to respond. I want to ask you about this, calling him 45. As a vice mayor of a city, I know how you feel about him.
BURNETT: And you've told our viewers how you feel about him. He is though President Trump, the president of the United States. Are you simply unable to say that?
BELLAMY: Act like it.
BURNETT: Is that OK, you may not -- he acts that way.
BELLAMY: Act like it.
BURNETT: But do you respect that he did win and hold that office? I mean, it is weird that you won't call him by his title.
BELLAMY: It's not weird. It's not weird at all. I can respect the office and not respect the person in it. Very simple.
When you come down and you don't even -- you couldn't even clearly state and say white supremacists after all this took place, and then you gave us a half hearted explanation, which appeared to be very written, and then you come out today and you show your true colors and you expect me, an African-American, the only African-American in Charlottesville council, the seventh in history and the other individuals who have been disrespected in the city --
FERGUSON: Did you call him President Trump before Saturday?
BELLAMY: -- by encouraging these white supremacists that not only come, but not condemning them, but also place blame on what he coined the alt-left and you expect me to call this man president? That's not going to happen.
BURNETT: He is the president. Ben?
BELLAMY: You can bring up old tweets. I'm not calling him that. This is old tweets. You can bring up --
FERGUSON: Hey, I have one question. Just one quick question? Did you call him President Trump before Saturday?
BELLAMY: He will not work to bring people together. And that's what he's doing. No, I didn't call him 45 before Saturday.
BURNETT: I will leave it there. Thank you all very much.
BELLAMY: Are you good?
BURENTT: And next, the breaking news Republicans have been tearing into President Trump at this hour after he defends racist protesters in Charlottesville and calling some in the group very fine people.
[19:43:06] BURNETT: Breaking news, outrage and condemnation, it is widespread. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle very clear, mincing no words and blasting President Trump after he once again claimed both sides are to blame for the deadly Charlottesville situation in which, of course, there was a terrorist attack perpetuated by a neo-Nazi.
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz tweeting: As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my president.
House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, who, of course, you know is still recovering from being shot tweeted, quote: I was clear about this bigotry and violence over the weekend and I'll repeat it today. We must defeat white supremacy in all forms of hatred.
Ohio Governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich came out tweeting, there is no moral equivalency to Nazi sympathizers. There can be no room in America or the Republican Party for racism, anti-Semitism, hate or white nationalism, period -- echoing, of course, what I read earlier from Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and the list goes on, Charlie Dent -- Republican after Republican.
And joining me now is the Republican congressman from Virginia, Scott Taylor.
Congressman, this is personal to you. This all started in your state. Let me give you a chance just to respond to what the president said today off teleprompter saying both sides are to blame for the deadly attack in Charlottesville, and there were, quote, some very fine people on both sides.
Your response, Congressman?
REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Well, let me first say, you know, my sympathies and condolences out to Heather's family and the two troopers, of course. And for their families and their friends as well, too.
I think that leadership matters, there's no question about that, and it starts at the top. And, you know, this -- from the KKK, Nazis, the folks that are responsible for this rally, they're the ones that are 100 percent responsible for it. That doesn't excuse premeditated lawlessness from anybody, from anyone. But they are responsible for it and I think that we should speak out loudly and clearly and shame them because there's no home for hate anywhere in Virginia or in America.
[19:45:04] And, you know, this group -- this is a group, of course, that is anti-black, anti-gay, anti-Jew. And there's just no excuse for it. So, they should be now denounced in the strongest terms possible by anyone in America.
BURNETT: Were you shocked by what the president did today? I mean, yesterday, he came out and fine, it was late. You criticized him for that. You were very clear. You said the actions and ideology of hate from white supremacists have no place in our state, country or the world. You were clear.
And then the president finally came out yesterday and read from the teleprompter. Today, though, he was impassioned and obviously going back to what he had already said -- both sides.
Were you surprised?
TAYLOR: Yes and no. You know, why I say no, I'll start with that first, because I myself was ironically in Israel when they had these Nazi folks that were there creating this rally in Charlottesville. And I saw what happened on Friday night, which is when the violence started, quite frankly, and made a statement. And I had to make a second statement as well, too, because then Saturday happened and unfortunately, you know, we had the events that happened.
So, it doesn't surprise me that he had to make two statements. But that being said, yes, of course, we wanted to say something that was a lot stronger in the beginning and in the second statement and certainly today. I didn't watch -- I was in a meeting when the press conference happened but I saw what happened during it.
And I think, you know, you've got to unequivocally say, look, this is wrong, this should never happen. You're not going to be talking about there were fine people that are with swastikas and stuff walking in Charlottesville. So, yes, you know, I don't agree with that, of course, and I think he should have been stronger.
BURNETT: Why --
TAYLOR: Leadership matters, and it starts at the top.
BURNETT: Yes. Why do you think he did it? I mean, that's what everyone is trying to understand, Congressman? Why do you think he did it?
Is he a racist? Is he trying to appeal to racists?
TAYLOR: No, I don't think -- no.
BURNETT: What's the reasoning, do you think?
TAYLOR: I can't answer that definitively at all. I don't think the president is a racist. I think that's the wrong thing to say for folks. I think, you know, he talks about on both sides.
Like I said, there was -- there was premeditated lawlessness on both sides. That should be reported on the press and one of you had a guest that was trying to get that out I think, you know, a couple minutes ago.
TAYLOR: But that should be. The facts should certainly be reported. That doesn't -- that does not alleviate the responsibility of the Nazis and KKK and the groups that organized this protest to cause problems. There's no question about it. The responsibility lies with them.
But that also doesn't excuse lawlessness on any side for that matter. So, I don't know if he was trying to say that. I'm just not sure, you know? I don't think that he's a racist. I think that's wrong.
BURNETT: One of your Republican congressmen, Congressman Curbelo was on the show last night and he was saying that there were people close to the friend, he named them, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, that he felt, you know, were at the least appealing and accommodating to racist, appeasing and accommodating. There have been Republicans and Democrats who have been calling for the president to get rid of Steve Bannon, who is, of course, in his inner circle. We understand that he and President Trump were in communication via text on Saturday when the president, of course, said both sides.
Today, the president would not commit to keeping Steve Bannon around. Let me play what he said in the press conference about him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like him. He's a good man. He is not a racist. I can tell you that.
He's a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he's a good person and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you think Steve Bannon should have a place in this White House, Congressman?
TAYLOR: Look, I'm going to leave it to the president to decide who he wants to have in his White House. That is his prerogative. We elected him. He's there.
I don't know Steve Bannon personally. I know that he's gotten a lot of press. I don't know if it's right or wrong. I don't know him. You know, I don't know him personally.
But it is the president's prerogative and he will have to deal with both the positives and the negatives of anyone who he brings in his White House.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
TAYLOR: Thank you. Good to see you, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And next, more of our breaking news. More business leaders refusing to work with Trump, quitting his business counsel after the president doubles down and does not condemn white supremacy.
[19:53:02] BURNETT: Breaking news: Outrage growing tonight over Trump's handling over the deadly violence in Charlottesville. Since yesterday, six major business executives have resigned, some in just the past hour, from the president's manufacturing council.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka the latest to do so, moments ago, saying: We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism.
The first executive to leave Trump's council on Monday took a lot of courage to do so. That was the CEO of Merck, Kenneth Frasier. He was the only African-American on the council. Trump then attacked him personally several times and had this to say about all the business leaders who quit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they're leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Meaning outside the United States. He says that's why they're leaving.
Stephen Moore, former senior economic adviser for the Trump campaign joins me, along with Cornell William Brooks, former president of the NAACP. Cornell, obviously, these resignations, there had been six from five
major organizations. Obviously, I got to admit, Richard Trumka, I expect to be one of the first. But Kenneth Frazier was the one who came out first and took that big leap and did it. What do you say?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP: I simply say this, that the president has accused these business leaders and this labor leader of grandstanding.
BROOKS: But note this, these business leaders, in the midst of this growing economy, low unemployment rate, a pro, ostensibly pro-business president, has decided to take a principled and moral stand in opposition to his failure to denounce white nationalism in our midst. They should be commended for this. And the fact that you have a labor leader and business leaders all on the same moral page says a whole lot about them, but it says more about our president.
[19:55:04] Much has been said by him about his political base. The question that we all need to ask ourselves tonight is where is his base of moral credibility? He doesn't have one, because you have business leaders and a labor leader and millions of Americans who frankly are repulsed by what he's done.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you, Stephen, the president said there that the CEOs were leaving out of embarrassment because they either have jobs outside the country, or whatever -- he's making it about jobs, right? That they're embarrassed, that that's why they're leaving.
You worked with him. Is he really serious when he says that?
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, he hates when American companies move their facilities out of the country. There's no question about it. He's a real patriot when it comes to that.
But with respect to the issue of these CEOs leaving this business council, you know, I think I've just come to the personal conclusion that CEOs should follow their own conscience and they should do, you know, what they feel is right for themselves and for their companies. But I wanted to address that issue that you asked the congressman, Erin, about whether Donald Trump is a racist.
And I would simply say that first of all, what kind of a question is that to ask if a president is a racist? Of course, Donald Trump is not a racist. He may not have said things the right way this week, but you know, if you look at the results, you know, Ben talked about the economy, which is what Trump is always trying to get back to.
You know, I just looked at the statistics in preparation for this. Black incomes are up under Donald Trump, reversing the decline that happened under Barack Obama. The pace of job growth of black Americans is double what it was under Barack Obama. That is, as you know, Donald Trump wants to take $10 billion of federal education money and give that to low income parents, as you know, Ben, 90 percent of those parents and families are African-American. Does that sound like -- do those sound like the policies of a
president who doesn't like black Americans?
BURNETT: Cornell, do you think -- do you take that point or is it fair to ask given what's happened over the past 72 hours whether racist is a fair word to use?
BROOKS: Well, first of all, with all due respect to my colleague, he's totally missed the point. The point here is not whether or not the president supports policies that offer an economic benefit to African-Americans and others. The issue is with respect to Charlottesville, whether or not the president stood up and stood against white nationalism and white supremacy. The answer to that is he failed to do so.
The other point here is that when you ask the question is the president a racist? Here's what he know: the president has blown loud and long racial dog whistles from the campaign forward and well before that. The president has sanctioned white supremacy. The president has gone out of his way to engage in the apologetics of white nationalism.
So, when you ask whether or not he is a racist, what we do know is this -- the policies he supported, the rhetoric he's offered, the positions he's taken are racially detrimental and detrimental to the whole of the country. Make no mistake, the violence
BROOKS: White nationalism is dangerous. Deadly dangerous.
MOORE: I'm not going to condone what President Trump said today. I'm just not going to do it.
But I'll say this, having been around him, Erin, as I was during the campaign, the way that -- you know, when I would go to these rallies that Trump had, you would be surprised, Erin and Ben, how many African-Americans and Hispanics were at those rallies. He had a message of economic growth and jobs that -- look, I would say this, Ben, the two most important things for African-Americans today are better schools and more economic opportunity and jobs and Trump is delivering on that.
BURNETT: So, Cornell, is it possible that he could end up being a good president for black America, despite what he says? I guess the question is, do you still leave that door open, Cornell?
MOORE: That's my question, too.
BROOKS: So when the president asked months ago to African-Americans, what do you have to lose? We can answer now, our lives. What do we have to lose? Our democracy. What do we have to lose? Our rights. What do we have to lose? Our moral legitimacy as a nation.
So, we have much to lose, and in the months he's been president, we have lost much. BURNETT: Final word, response, Steve?
MOORE: Well, look, I hate racism. I think Donald Trump hates it. I wish he would be more forceful and, Ben, I wish that he would reach out to African-Americans. I think he needs to do that right now, because look, I respect you and the fact that so many Americans do wonder about whether he's sanctioning white supremacy. He has to be more forthright.
I want to hear -- at some point I want to hear you, Ben, say I'm comfortable with what this president is saying on race.
BURNETT: All right. Well, obviously, that's not something very many people are willing to say, including you yourself, Steve, right now, as you said. I don't know anyone who is. David Duke was today, there's one.
All right. Thanks very much to both of you. I appreciate it.
Thanks to all of you for joining us. Don't forget, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime, anywhere. Just go to CNN Go. Anderson is next.