Kellyanne Conway vs. Jake Tapper on Trump’s Charlottesville Comments: "Who Were The Very Fine People?"


White House counselor Kellyanne Conway debated CNN's Jake Tapper Sunday morning on "State of the Union" about the president's comments in response to the Charlottesville "Unite The Right" riot in 2017 and the president's condemnation of white supremacy and racist violence.

Trump’s remark that there were "very fine people on both sides" of the protests returned to the spotlight this week when former Vice President Joe Biden referenced them in his campaign launch video.

JAKE TAPPER: So, in addition to speaking out about it -- and certainly President Trump did so unequivocally last night -- what more can be done? Because that's not the only solution, right, speaking out against it? Obviously, that's the easy part.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: But what we have found over time, as a nation, Jake, is that many places of worship do not want to become barracks, if you will. They don't want to have the metal detectors outside. They don't want to have the armed guards.

Some, in fact, do have armed guards. Some of them pay for themselves. Some ask, I believe, for federal support or state support in that regard. And so I think that local police are also very vigilant.

And what our counterterrorism and our FBI and anybody in our -- in our administration, in our government, which is all of our government, are looking at is to find these -- find these folks where they can. I think there's some copycatting going on, as you see.

TAPPER: Right.

CONWAY: People feel influenced by prior acts. And we probably don't always shine a light, which is fine too, on those who are intercepted and caught before they do the horrible bidding and their murderous acts.

But I very much respect those men and women who are in this, particularly the career folks, who are in this type of activity and trying to intercept and stop people before it starts.

But people can't feel impeded to go and worship in their places of worship also.


You talk about copycats. And a letter allegedly written by this shooter mentioned the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand last month. And after that attack, President Trump was asked if he thought white nationalism was a growing threat around the world.

This is what he said. This is six weeks ago.

TRUMP: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.

TAPPER: So, this is the second deadly attack on a synagogue in six months in the United States, and it follows a major attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

Obviously, we have seen anti-Christian violence as well from terrorists who are Islamist in nature.

Does President Trump still think that white nationalism is not a growing threat around the world? Is he -- is he reconsidering that?

CONWAY: Well, the irony is that he condemned white nationalism and neo-Nazis and the KKK during the Charlottesville incident.

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, that he -- he condemned them.

And I have it right here. And anybody can pull up his exact statements in the -- in the transcript of those conversations almost two years ago. But 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.

TAPPER: But he said there were -- but he said there were very fine people on both sides.

CONWAY: He was talking about the -- and if you continue the sentence...

TAPPER: I understand.

CONWAY: ... he said, people were there -- people were there who had not signed up with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who were there about a park being renamed and a statue being taken down.

TAPPER: But...

CONWAY: But when the president of the United States...


CONWAY: ... 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...

TAPPER: But he was talking about the people -- I don't know who he was talking about, though, because here's -- my here's my question.

CONWAY: He made that very clear. What he said over the course of days...

TAPPER: No, no, I understand he wasn't talking about neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I understand that. He said that.

CONWAY: But he condemned them.

TAPPER: But he was -- he absolutely did.

CONWAY: Thank you.

TAPPER: But he also said there were very fine people...

CONWAY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Well, I have been saying this the whole time. He also said there were very fine people on both sides.

My question about this incident, since you brought it up, is, who are these very fine people? Because, Friday night, the rally was...

CONWAY: No, no, let me just interject. No, we've said this many times, but I think people are starting to be honest about it for the first time in two years.

TAPPER: Let me set the stage here.

It was called the Unite the Right rally, and it was formed by people like Richard Spencer, who is a white -- white supremacist. Friday night was the tiki torch march and "Jews will not replace us."

CONWAY: With horrible people.

TAPPER: Right.

CONWAY: People could see them...


TAPPER: Saturday, Heather Heyer was killed.

Who -- who are the -- who are the very fine people he's talking about?

CONWAY: Heather Heyer was -- Heather Heyer was murdered. And her murderer...

TAPPER: Right.

CONWAY: ... has been brought to justice.

TAPPER: But who were the very fine people?

CONWAY: He's talking -- he was talking about the debate over removing statues and renaming...

TAPPER: So he wasn't talking about the weekend at all? He was just talking about...

CONWAY: He's not talking about white supremacists.

TAPPER: ... the theoretical discussion?

CONWAY: In fact, he condemned them in no uncertain terms, unequivocally. Go and pull the full comments.

He condemned them over time, racism, bigotry, evil, neo-Nazis, KKK.

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