Kellyanne Conway says Donald Trump's response to Charlottesville was "darn near perfection"

Kellyanne Conway tells CNN that Donald Trump's response to Charlottesville was "darn near perfection"

By Matthew Rozsa

Published April 28, 2019 12:00PM (EDT)

Kellyanne Conway (Getty/Mark Wilson)
Kellyanne Conway (Getty/Mark Wilson)

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway defended President Donald Trump's controversial response to the Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017 during her Sunday appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper.

In a question to Conway, Tapper cited Trump's insistence after the Christchurch mosque shootings that white nationalism is not a growing threat around the world. After playing a clip of Trump making that claim, Tapper asked Conway if the president would still hold to that view in the aftermath of the Saturday shooting at a synagogue in San Diego, the second synagogue shooting in the United States within the last six months.

"Well, the irony is that he condemned white nationalism and neo-Nazis and the KKK during the Charlottesville incident," Conway told Tapper. "And more responsible anchors like you and Michael Smerconish yesterday are starting to admit that he wasn't talking about them when he said 'fine people,' he was talking about a monument discussion."

She later added, "People have let that lie fly for almost two years ago. He condemned hatred, bigotry, evil, called out the neo-Nazis and the KKK and white supremacists there."

As Tapper attempted to pivot toward the issue of white nationalism in the aftermath of the San Diego synagogue shooting, Conway insisted on discussing what she argued was a distortion of the president's Charlottesville remarks.

"If you continue the sentence he said people were there, people were there who had not signed up with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who were there about a park being renamed and a statue being taken down. But when the President of the United States, Donald Trump, condemns white supremacy and neo-Nazis and KKK in the first couple months of his term and it is twisted around for almost two years for people's political perversions..." Conway told Tapper.

Tapper pointed out that, at the time of the incident, three Republican senators and one of Trump's top economic advisers did not have a rosy assessment of Trump's response.

"According to Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, Cory Gardner, Gary Cohn, his response was not unequivocal...these loyal supporters of the president did not think his response on Charlottesville was perfect," Tapper told Conway.

Conway also got into a heated disagreement with CNN host Michael Smerconish on Saturday, where she claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden focused on Trump's Charlottesville comments in 2017 because "Biden wants to revisit the remark because he doesn’t want to be held to account for his record or lack thereof. I found his announcement video to be unfortunate," according to Newsweek. After Smerconish argued that an ideal answer would have left no reason for ambiguity or interpretation, Conway argued that "there is no room for ambiguity and interpretation. What the president said is condemning violence, bigotry, hatred, and he specifically called out KKK, neo-nationalists, white supremacists."

During his campaign announcement video, Biden condemned Trump for "assigning moral equivalence" between white supremacists and those who oppose them. He added, "I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are — and I cannot stand by and watch that happen."

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa