President Donald Trump said he was slow to condemn hate groups because he didn't know all the facts, and many of them are still unknown.
Trump held a news conference Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York City. The purpose of the gathering was to address infrastructure throughout the country, but quickly turned to the violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
When asked about why he waited so long to denounce white supremacists, Trump said: "I didn't wait long, I wanted to make sure...what I said was correct."
"There's blame on both sides...you also had people that were very fine people on both sides," Trump told reporters. "Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists.”
Pres. Trump on Charlottesville: "There's blame on both sides...you also had people that were very fine people on both sides." pic.twitter.com/ayX9eHABsN— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2017
Trump took issue with a reporter's characterization of part of the crowd Saturday being part of the so-called alt-right, which is shorthand for the "alternative right" and composed of many far-right ideologies.
"When you say the alt-right, you define it. Go ahead. Define it for me," he said.
"What about the alt-left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt-right? Do they have any assemblage of guilt? What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do," he said. It's unclear what Trump meant by the "alt-left."
Trump said that he "looked" at images of the protests that were held "the night before" the violence Saturday. Photos and footage from the event on Friday, Aug. 11, showed groups of people carrying lit tiki torches on a march through the University of Virginia campus.
He went on to question why the statue of Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee, which prompted the protest in the first place, was being removed.
"You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” he said.
"George Washington as a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down -- excuse me," Trump said, cutting off a reporter who tried to interject, "Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him. Good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner.”
When asked about whether or not he thinks the Robert E. Lee statue should remain standing, he said that he thinks it's a local issue.
Trump was also asked about his view of the driver of the car that plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring others.
"I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. You can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics," Trump said.
Trump also addressed CEOs who have quit his White House council, saying they are "leaving out of embarrassment." Trump said those CEOs are "not taking their jobs seriously."
When asked why CEOs are leaving his manufacturing council, Pres. Trump says "because they're not taking their job seriously." pic.twitter.com/i4gjPFuiMR— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2017
Four chief executives have resigned from the White House manufacturing council in protest of the president's failure to immediately condemn white supremacists and other hate groups after deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Monday he did condemn those groups by name.
The parade of departing leaders from the informal panel now includes the chief executives for Merck, Under Armour and Intel and the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
Trump started off the news conference saying he's signing a new executive order "streamlining" the federal permitting process to speed up construction of transportation, water and other infrastructure projects without harming the environment.
White House officials confirmed that Trump's order includes revoking an Obama administration executive order requiring that builders take sea level rise driven by climate change into account when constructing projects in flood plains. Trump has suggested the predicted risks from sea level rise are overblown.
Pres. Trump says he signed executive order to "dramatically reform the nation's badly broken infrastructure permitting process." pic.twitter.com/yzay8EZr84— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2017
The president said it can cost hundreds of millions of dollars and 17 years to approve an ordinary highway project because of burdensome regulations.
This is Trump's second executive order aimed at streamlining infrastructure projects.
Environmentalists say Trump is seeking to weaken environmental protections.
ABC News and the Associated Press contributed to the this article.