tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC August 15, 2017 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
breaking news tonight. president trump unloads, doubling down on his initial response to charlottesville. now blaming, quote, both sides. >> you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that. but i'll say it right now. also, the fight over confederate statues. the president asking, where does it end? >> this week it's robert e. lee. is it george washington next week? and is it thomas jefferson the week after? >> there is reaction pouring in tonight amid a growing backlash. caught on camera, controversy over a child with autism seen dragged by a teacher and teacher's aide. video of that boy left his mom speechless. a promise kept by a world war ii vetan
"nightly news" begins right now. >> announcer: from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening. we're glad you're with us tonight. if president trump's words yesterday of unity and his condemnation of hate groups helped cool the embers of outrage following the charlottesville, virginia, tragedy, this afternoon it took only minutes for him to reignite them with a verbal flame thrower. it was an extraordinary and at times shocking news conference at trump tower in which the president of the united states defaulted back to his initial claim that both sides were to blame for saturday's violence in a protest rally staged by the kkk, neo-nazis and white nationalists. three people died in the aftermath of saturday's rally. tonight we're going to let you hear a great deal of what the president had to say this afternoon. our hallie jackson starts us off. >> reporter: tonight,
donald trump's presidency. >> you look at both sides, i think there's blame on both sides. and i have no doubt about it, and you don't have any doubt about it either. >> reporter: the defendant unfiltered and defiant responding to criticisms of his comments condemning the charlottesville attack. >> how about the at-left, coming at the alt-right, do they have any semblance of guilt? what about the fact they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs, do they have any problem? i think they do. >> reporter: both protesters and counterprotesters came ready for a fight, but saturday's rally was sponsored in the first place by white nationalists who showed up in force. it's one of those attendees, police say, killing 32-year-old heather heyer. >> you had very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very ne
sides. you had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me, i saw the same pictures as you did. you had people in that group that were there to protest, the taking down to them a very, very important statue. and that renaming of a bar from robert e. lee to another name. >> do you think what you call the at-left is the same as neo-nazis? >> those people -- all of those people -- excuse me. i condemned neo-nazis. i've condemned many different groups. but not all of those people were neo-nazis, believe me. not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of robert e. lee. excuse me. you take a look at some of the groups, and you would know it if you're honest reporters which in many cases you're not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of robert e. lee.
this week it's robert e. lee. i notice stonewall jackson is coming down. is it george washington the next week? and thomas jefferson the week after? you really have to ask yourself, where does it stop. george washington was a slave owner. was george washington a slave owner? will george washington now lose his status? >> reporter: the president's words today echo what he said saturday, when he blamed many sides for hatred, bigotry and violence, not condemning then the white supremacists and neo-nazis who participated in the weekend rally. he did denounce them explicitly monday, but today -- >> you had many people in that group other than neo-nazis and white nationalists, okay? and the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. >> reporter: the president said he never spoke with his controversial chief strategist, steve bannon, about his original statement this weekend. >> i like him. he's a good man. he is not a racist, i can tell you that. he's a good person.
he actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. but we'll see what happens with mr. bannon. >> reporter: the extraordinary back-and-forth you just watched was never supposed to happen in the first place. nbc news has learned the president was not set to answer any questions, according to a senior white house official, who tells us president trump simply went rogue. his new chief of staff, john kelly, stood off to the side as it happened, at times lowering his head and folding his hands. remember, president trump came down to the lobby of trump tower in the first place to talk about infrastructure, but as has happened again and again in this administration, what he wants to do ended up overshadowed by what he said instead. lester? >> hallie jackson, we can hear protesters in the background there, thank you. we want to take a closer look at what the president said this afternoon when he blamed both sides for the violence and what we know about the events that took place over the weekend in charlottesville. do his claims stand up?
gutierrez. >> jews will not replace us! >> they were there to protest -- excuse me. take a look the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of robert e. lee. >> you will not replace us! >> reporter: this was that night. >> you had people, and i'm not talking about the neo-nazis and white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. but you had many people in that group other than neo-nazis, and white nationalists, okay? >> reporter: but many were, and several such as christopher cantwell advocated violence. >> i'm carrying a pistol, i go to the gym all the time. i'm trying to make myself more capable of violence. i'm here to spread ideas, talk in the hopes that somebody more capable will come along and do that. somebody like donald trump who does not give his daughter to a jew. >> so donald trump,
>> a lot more racist than donald trump. >> reporter: the president did denounce violence today, but spread the blame to include counterprotesters. >> i will tell you something. i watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. and you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. >> reporter: the charlottesville police chief when asked whether one side was more responsible than other, said it was an all-white rally, but both sides came for a fight. >> we had mutually combative individuals in the crowd. >> reporter: but the chief said the white nationalists did not follow the agreed-upon plan, and began entering the park from other directions. the rally's organizers, including jason kessler, said they were following the law and were nonviolent. clearly some were. >> we did not initiate force against anybody. we'll
these people if we have to. >> i only tell you this. there are two sides to a story. i thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country. a horrible moment. but there are two sides. >> reporter: virginia governor terry mcauliffe just released a written statement calling this an act of domestic terrorism. this was not both sides, he said. a public memorial for the woman who was killed at this intersection, heather heyer, is scheduled for tomorrow. lester? >> gabe gutierrez, thank you. the president's remarks today triggered an instant backlash, not only among his critics, but within the very republican party that he leads. we go to our capitol hill correspondent, kasie hunt. >> reporter: even before his stunning press conference ended, the fiery reaction beginning. swift condemnation from so many corners of american life, including members of the president's own party. republicans upset he doubled down, blaming both sides again for
republican congresswoman ross tweeting blaming both sides for charlottesville? no. back to relativism when dealing with kkk, nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? just no. senator marco rubio who lost the republican nomination again tweeting the president should call the events in charlottesville, quote, a terror attack by white supremists. democratic senator mark warner tweeting, no words. and beyond the beltway, celebrities and sports stars weighing in. lebron james writing on twitter, hate has always existed in america. yes, we know that. but donald trump just made it fashionable again, but the president did earn praise from one corner, white supremacists who took it as a sign of acceptance. david duke, the former kkk grand wizard writing, thank you, president trump, for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about charlottesville. and spencer saying the remarks were fair. and down to earth. more sharp criticism
from clasmt aflcio trumpka saying he'll resign from the president's manufacturing council. he can't tolerate bigotry and domestic terrorism. >> that could be particularly meaningful, because he represents so many of the blue collar workers who helped trump to victory in states like michigan and wisconsin. and now there are at least five executives who have resigned from different presidential advisory boards. there are others who say that they'll stay on, but also tonight, lester, the house speaker, paul ryan, tweeting moments ago, that white supremacy is repulsive and there can be no moral ambiguity. >> kasie, thank you very much. i want to bring in our political director, the moderator of "meet the press." we must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence. that was the president's words from yesterday. what happened? >> he rendered them meaningless today.
yesterday, there was suspicion that it was a forced denouncement that he put out yesterday. but i think everybody was hoping that the president needs to speak for all of america, and he spoke for all of america yesterday. and then he didn't. and that's what happened today, lester, is that it may be that president trump lost whatever moral authority he -- look, with the office of the presidency does come the opportunity to be a moral authority for the country. and it's up to presidents can either use it, abuse it or lose it. and in this case, i would say the president at best has abused it, and has at worst lost it. he's lost the moral authority as far as speaking for the country. now he's probably lost the moral authority for the republican party. watch out for this, lester. this is so bad. that i think john kelly tonight, the chief of staff, is going to have more than one phone call to talk staffers and administration officials from resigning. >> we saw him holding his head down during some of that at trump tower. chuck, thank you.
ripple effect from charlottesville where neo-nazis and kkk were protesting plans to remove a statue of robert e. lee. many other cities have removed statues or symbols of the confederacy. now calls are building for more to follow suit. let's get more on that angle of the story from nbc's tom costello. >> reporter: three days after neo-nazis and white supremacists rallied to protect a statue of confederate general robert e. lee, the president today suggested removing confederate monuments which many believe represent slavery and oppression may have gone too far. >> are we going to take down statues of george washington? how about thomas jefferson? >> reporter: but in many cities there is new momentum to remove monuments after this weekend's violence. in durham, north carolina, protesters last night tore down a confederate statue. the lexington, kentucky, city council today took steps to remove two statues. maryland's republican governor said a statue
come down. back in charlottesville, a court will decide whether the city can remove robert e. lee from his pedestal. in charlottesville, reaction to the president's comments today. >> we would ideally want the president to be supportive of the community. it feels as if he's attacking us. >> reporter: since dylan roofe massacred nine people in charleston, 67 confederate monuments have come down. but nationwide, there are still 718 monuments to the confederacy, including eight that stand in the halls of congress. >> it doesn't seem fair that you should take away history. true, we have things in our history that are not always pleasant. but history is a way of teaching children about the past. >> slavery is at the absolute center of american history. >> reporter: this history professor said when white nationalists march with a nazi flag that americans died fighting against, any nostalgia for the
tarnished. >> that devalues that claim to this being a uniquely heritage of fighting against a strong federal government. now it's reduced to race. >> reporter: all speeches have been canceled in boston at texas a&m, and in richmond, virginia. the governor of north carolina said late today he wants to remove all confederate statues from state property, state grounds. that will be a tough order. meanwhile, we can tell you as well that right wing leaders say they will be back stronger than ever, including back here in charlottesville. lester? >> tom costello tonight, thank you. in other news this evening, we're keeping an eye on the tropics. the second hurricane in the season in the atlantic, hurricane gert, is making its way north kicking up seas, increasing the risk of rip currents for portions of the east coast over the next couple of days. the good news, though, the storm itself is not expected to be a threat to the united states. still ahead here tonight, a mother's outrage. shocking video appearing to show her autistic son dragged by a teacher. but police say tse
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from nbc's blake mccoy. >> reporter: it's the video that left an ohio mother speechless. her 7-year-old son, corbin, who's autistic, being carried by school staff by his hands and feet. at one point dragged by his ankle into an office. >> it was almost like a punch in the gut. i just wanted to grab corbin and hold him and hug him and not let him go. >> reporter: a police investigation found the boy was hitting, kicking and biting others on the playground. and a teacher says he injured her eye. cameras don't capture that. the county prosecutor declined to pursue felony child endangerment charges, saying the video is upsetting and troubling, but not every wrong is a crime. we showed the video to a psychologist. >> this never should have gotten to that place. >> reporter: with a deep background in special education. >> you want to de-escalate the situation, keep the child safe where the child is. >> reporter: an attorney for the teacher and teacher's aide n
comment. they remain on administrative leave and could face disciplinary action. >> you never want to think that any of your employees are capable of doing something like that. >> reporter: bonnie mckeen has posted it online hoping it sparks training nationwide. >> there's a difference between an autistic meltdown and temper tantrum from an angry child. i think a lot of people don't realize that. >> reporter: this year corbin will attend a new special education program in a neighboring district. blake mccoy, nbc news. there's a lot more to tell you about tonight. we're back in a moment with why a new hit song trending on the itunes charts isn't really a song at all.
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finally tonight, the incredible journey for an american world war ii veteran. in 1944 he made a promise on the battlefield, and today seven decades and 10,000 miles later he has finally fulfilled it. we get the extraordinary story from nbc's joe fryer. >> reporter: marvin strombo isn't just holding a folded flag, he's carrying a promise. a vow made in the south pacific 73 years ago. it's here during world war ii that strombo, a marine, came across the body of a dead japanese soldier, tucked inside his uniform near his heart was a flag covered in calligraphy. the kind of souvenir often discovered on the battlefield, but strombo struggled to take this one. >> because i knew it meant so much to him. >> reporter: but he realized if he didn't, someone else might. >> and i promised him
at that time i would return the flag some day to the family. >> reporter: now 93 years old, strombo recently reached out to a society that helps veterans return japanese flags to the families of fallen soldiers. they learned this one belonged to yasua, signed by 180 members of his village, including seven who are still alive today. one of them, his 89-year-old brother. he said the family never received yasua's remains, but today they got his flag. strombo traveled 10,000 miles to fulfill his promise in person. >> i never did think i owned the flag, it was always theirs. >> reporter: the flag fills a deep void for this entire village, including the soldier's sisters, an emotional moment on a battlefield 73 years ago, now blooming in
family heal. joe fryer, nbc news. we appreciate you spending part of your evening with us. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching, and good night. whoooo. finding the best hotel price is now a safe bet. because tripadvisor searches... ...over 200 booking sites - so you save up to 30% on the... ...hotelock it in. tripadvisor.