Pence defends Trump from critics of Charlottesville remarks

CARTAGENA, Colombia — Vice President Mike Pence accused the news media on Sunday of being more concerned with attacking President Donald Trump's response to the deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, than on condemning the violence itself.

On his arrival here on a weeklong tour of Latin America, Pence singled out "white supremacists" for the attack at a "Unite the Right" rally on Saturday, telling NBC News: "We will not tolerate hatred and violence of groups like white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis. These extremist fringe groups have no place in the American debate."

One person was killed and 19 others were injured Saturday when an Ohio man allegedly drove his car through a group of counter-demonstrators, police said.

RELATED: White nationalist protesters lead rally in Charlottesville

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White nationalist protesters lead 'Nazi-esque' rally in Charlottesville
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White nationalist protesters lead 'Nazi-esque' rally in Charlottesville
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Protesters direct obscene gestures towards members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in support of Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Counter-protesters shout at members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Members of the Ku Klux Klan face counter-protesters as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A counter-protester is detained as members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police detain a counter-protester during the aftermath of a rally by members of the Ku Klux Klan in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters lock arms in the middle of a street as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police, clergy and free speech observers protect a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape after he was surrounded by counter-protesters prior to the arrival of members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters help a man affected by pepper gas as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police, clergy and free speech observers protect a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape after he was surrounded by counter-protesters prior to the arrival of members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Counter-protesters lock arms in the middle of a street as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, such as the statue of General Stonewall Jackson above them, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan, standing near a tomato and and an orange that had been thrown at them by counter-protesters, hold a sign as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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The vice president's language went further than that initially used by Trump, who condemned "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides." Trump endured a drumbeat of criticism throughout the weekend, from many Republicans as well as Democrats, among them Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Pence said Sunday that Trump "stated clearly that he condemns hate and violence in all of its forms."

Pence said he took issue with "the fact that many in the media are spending more time criticizing how the president addressed the issue yesterday."

"Many in the media spent an awful lot of time focusing on what the president said and criticisms of what the president said instead of criticizing those who brought that hatred and violence to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia," Pence said.

Asked whether Trump should have identified white supremacists specifically as a subject of his comments, Pence said: "I think the president yesterday spoke to a national moment, words the American people needed to hear — that we condemn acts of violence, acts of hatred."

"The president called on our nation to look for ways to come together, to make sure that these extremist groups are pushed out of the public debate and not given the attention that they too often receive," Pence said, adding that Trump would continue calling for a "focus on what unites us, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to justice for all."

At a news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Pence noted that Santos' son recently graduated from the University of Virginia, which is in Charlottesville.

"What happened yesterday in Charlottesville was a tragedy," he said. "It did not represent that community, and it didn't represent the United States."

Peter Alexander and Erika Angulo reported from Cartagena. Alex Johnson reported from Los Angeles.

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