- Ivan Alvarado/Reuters
As the debate surrounding President Donald Trump’s response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia reached a fever pitch on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said that he stands by Trump’s words.
Pence also announced that he will fly back to the US tomorrow, ending his trip to Latin America a day early.
Pence, who defended the president’s controversial remarks over the weekend and attacked the media for criticizing them, ignored a reporter’s questions about Trump’s free-wheeling Tuesday press conference, in which he equated the white supremacist marchers with the anti-racist protesters opposing them.
A reporter asked Pence whether he agreed with the president’s claim that there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist protesters, whether Pence agrees with the removal of Confederate statues from public squares, and whether Confederate army leader Robert E. Lee and former President George Washington “should be considered in the same pantheon,” as Trump suggested.
But Pence did not address the specific questions, instead deferring to his prior response, in which he condemned “dangerous fringe groups,” but also blamed counter-protesters with “militant perspectives” for inciting violence.
“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy, and the president has been clear on this tragedy and so have I,” Pence said at a joint press conference with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet in Santiago on Wednesday. “I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia, and I stand with the president and I stand by those words.”
Pence also delivered a statement of support to those mourning the death of 32-year-old Heather Hayer, who was killed when a car, driven by a white supremacist, barreled into a group of counter-protesters. Hayer’s memorial service was held in Charlottesville on Wednesday morning.
“Today, while I’m here in Chile, our hearts are in Charlottesville because just a few short hours ago, family and friends gathered to say farewell to a remarkable young woman, Heather Heyer,” Pence said. “We’ve been praying for God’s peace and comfort for her family and her friends and her loved ones. And we’re also praying that in America, that we will not allow the few to divide the many.”
Pence praised the president’s words, calling on Americans to reject division.
“The strength of the United States of America is always strongest, as the president has said so eloquently, when we are united around our shared values,” Pence said.