President Trump came before the country Saturday to declare that he was ready to start the national healing after a series of white nationalist gatherings in Virginia, featuring torches and Nazi salutes, devolved into violence that left one person dead and 35 injured.
“We have to heal the wounds of our country,” he said during a televised event at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “We are going to do make every effort possible to make sure that that healing procedure goes as quickly as possible. I love the people of our country. I love all of the people of our country.”
It was a typical beginning for a president looking to calm the waters after an event that horrified many Americans. But Trump did not linger, as he quickly looked to move on to other topics.
The president walked to a small wooden table, where he started joking about the pen he was using to sign a bill reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs. “The question is, ‘Who’s getting the pen?’” he said, smiling at the military veterans who stood behind him. “Who’s getting the pen? C’mon. You folks argue about it. Let me know.”
Just seconds earlier, a reporter shouted had asked him to comment on the claims of white nationalist protesters that they supported Trump’s agenda. The President declined to acknowledge this or any other questions, despite having called the event a “press conference” on Twitter.
Instead, the President let stand the statement he had just read, condemning “in the strongest possible terms this display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” The reference to “many sides”—which he repeated, for emphasis moments later—appeared to many observers to equate the white nationalist protesters with the counter-protesters. The words “many sides” soon trended on social media, alongside news that a man had driven a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and sending others to the hospital.
If his intent had been to bring the…