PHOENIX — President Trump, stung by days of criticism that he sowed racial division in the United States after deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Va., accused the news media on Tuesday of misrepresenting what he insisted was his prompt, unequivocal condemnation of bigotry and hatred.
After declaring, “What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America,” Mr. Trump delivered a lengthy, aggrieved defense of his statements after the Aug. 12 violence that left one woman dead and the nation reeling at the images of swastikas in Thomas Jefferson’s hometown.
Notably, he omitted blaming “both sides” for the violence as he had on Aug. 15. Those remarks had prompted intense criticism, including from fellow Republican leaders, for seeming to equate the hate groups and the protesters who turned out to oppose them.
Removing his earlier statements about the Charlottesville violence from his jacket pocket, Mr. Trump on Tuesday glibly ticked off a list of racist groups that he had been urged to explicitly denounce, and ultimately did two days after the clashes. But he said the news media quoted him selectively, accused him of responding too late and ignored his message of unity.
“I hit ’em with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there. Let’s see. K.K.K., we have K.K.K.,” Mr. Trump said sardonically of his rebuke to Charlottesville racists, after being faulted for failing to condemn those groups in his initial response on the day of the clashes.
Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Trump had traveled to a sun-scorched border post in Yuma, Ariz., to highlight his determination to crack down on illegal border crossings from Mexico. In Phoenix, the president threatened to shut down the federal government if his proposal to build a border wall is not funded.
Mr. Trump also implied that he planned to pardon Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who became a national symbol of the crackdown on undocumented immigrants with round-’em-up searches that landed him in legal trouble. “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Mr. Trump asked to wild whoops and cheers.