WASHINGTON – In the aftermath of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., President Donald Trump is distancing himself from his chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
In a spiraling news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan, Trump cast the former chief executive of his 2016 campaign as a late-comer to his cadre of advisers and expressed uncertainty about his fate at the White House.
“Mr. Bannon came on very late," Trump told reporters. "I like him, he’s a good man, he is not a racist, I can tell you that. But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon."
Bannon had a prominent role in Trump's campaign and is seen as embodying the populist views that energized the president's base.
Yet his alignment with the so-called alt-right movement that includes many white supremacists has made him a lightning rod for critics, and pressure to remove him from his post escalated in recent days after the clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday.
While Bannon has denied he is a white supremacist, he's the former executive chairman of Breitbart News – which he once called a “platform for the alt-right” and is popular among neo-Nazi and other designated hate groups.
Yet even as Trump was tentative about Bannon's future, he offered a tidbit of defense for his chief strategist, saying: "I think the press treats him very badly, quite frankly.”
On Tuesday, Trump laid blame "on both sides" for events in Charlottesville that ended in the death of protester Heather Heyer. She was killed when a car driven by an alleged participant in the white supremacist rally plowed a car into a crowd.