President Donald Trump defended his equivocating comments following white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, saying Friday that he was referring to supporters of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee when he said there were “fine people” on both sides.
“I have answered that question, and if you look at what I said, you will see that question was answered perfectly,” Trump said Friday at the White House.
He was making the comments a day after former Vice President Joe Biden used the episode as the opening salvo of his presidential campaign.
In a campaign announcement video released Thursday, Biden said that by claiming there were “fine people” on both sides in the Charlottesville riot, “the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it.”
Responding to the white nationalist and neo-Nazi protests, which led to the death of one person, Trump said almost two years ago that there were “people that were very fine people on both sides.”
“I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general,” Trump said Friday. “Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals.”
Trump also said that opinion was shared by some of the military brass he consults at the White House.
“I have spoken to many generals here right at the White House. And many people thought, of the generals, they think he was maybe their favorite general. People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that,” Trump said.
Since Biden’s Thursday launch, Trump has taken several jabs at the former vice president.
Discussing the recently launch presidential bid, Trump said Thursday evening on Fox News: “I think that when you look at Joe … he’s not the brightest light bulb in the group.”
“Sleepy Joe. He’s a pretty sleepy guy. He’s not gonna be able to deal with (Chinese) President Xi (Jinping),” he added.
Trump also sounded like he was trying out a new line for the campaign trail.
“A lot of people wanted me to change the word sleepy to something else that rhymes with it. Does that make sense to you? And I thought it was too nasty,” the President said.
Trump also said Friday that Biden and other presidential candidates are making him “look very young.”
Biden, meanwhile, is fundraising off of Trump’s insults. A campaign fundraising email cites a tweet calling Biden “Sleepy Joe” with the response: “This is beneath the office of the Presidency … will you chip in so we can defend ourselves against Trump’s attacks?”
CNN’s Matt Hoye contributed to this report.