On Monday, President Donald Trump stood before a teleprompter in the White House and read a message about uniting the country after what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence” in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
“No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God,” Trump said.
“We must love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence. We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”
He ended the prepared address on a hopeful note.
“In times such as these, America has always shown its true character – responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice,” he said.
Just a day later, Trump struck a dramatically different tone.
Standing in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, the president returned to a familiar mode of communication – a freewheeling press conference in which he veered wildly off message and bashed his critics.
Trump blamed “many sides” for the violence at the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, and he defended his original statement that many said didn’t go far enough to condemn the protesters, one of whom drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a woman.
“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at the, as you say, the ‘alt-right’? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump said. “What about the fact they came charging – that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.”
This came after days of Trump’s attacks on Democrats, the “Fake News Media,” and the CEOs who had stepped down from Trump’s manufacturing council citing the president’s failure to swiftly condemn the white supremacists in Charlottesville.
Trump responded to Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier’s resignation from the manufacturing council by attacking Merck’s business practices.
“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” Trump wrote.
Trump hit Frazier again later that day, tweeting: “.@Merck Pharma is a leader in higher & higher drug prices while at the same time taking jobs out of the U.S. Bring jobs back & LOWER PRICES!”
After a handful of other corporate executives, including the CEOs of Under Armour and Intel, also resigned from the council, Trump called the CEOs “grandstanders” and said they would be replaced.
Trump’s reelection campaign also released its first television advertisement over the weekend, in which it labeled Democrats and the media “enemies” of the president, accusing the left of “obstructing” Trump’s agenda and the media of “attacking our president.”
“The president’s enemies don’t want him to succeed, but Americans are saying, ‘Let President Trump do his job,'” the ad said.
On Monday evening, the president retweeted a prominent conspiracy theorist who tweeted about gun violence in Chicago. Trump quickly deleted the retweet.
On Tuesday morning, in another attack that did not go unnoticed, Trump retweeted (and soon after deleted) a cartoon of a train hitting a person marked with the CNN logo. The image sparked accusations that the president was trivializing the death of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed when the driver plowed through a crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville.
An anonymous White House representative said the tweets were “inadvertently posted.”