Breitbart News Senior Editor at Large Joel Pollak appeared on BBC 4 Radio’s Today program on Tuesday to defend President Donald Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
Host Justin Webb began by pressing Pollak on the question of whether it was wrong for Trump to blame “all sides” [sic]. Pollak answered:
It’s absolutely correct to blame all sides. Because we have the First Amendment in this country, which protects freedom of speech, including hateful speech. And, in fact, the First Amendment exists precisely to protect speech you don’t like.
So, you know — I grew up in Skokie, Illinois, in a large Jewish community, which at the time had the largest number of Holocaust survivors in the world. And the Nazis wanted to march through Skokie, and the principle that was established in the court case that resulted from that was that the Nazis had the right to march in Skokie, even if they were going to provoke a lot of hurt feelings. And that’s the way the First Amendment works.
Well, there was another group [in Charlottesville], the Antifa group, on the left, that didn’t like that. And so they came to this rally in Charlottesville with the intent of disrupting these right-wing extremists, and shutting them down. Some of them were armed. And they’ve done this everywhere that these white supremacists have demonstrated, whether Sacramento or anywhere else in the country. And the left has been violent. In fact, the leader of this left group, Antifa, was arrested last week, I believe, for her incitement in that Sacramento riot. And this is what they’ve done, these two groups have faced off all over the country. Frankly, most sane people believe they deserve each other.
But the principle is that when you’re holding a demonstration that’s got a legal permit, as these Nazis and white supremacists were, they have the right to say what they say. And the right response is to ridicule them, not to try to shut them down with sticks and shields and bottles of urine, and pepper spray, and whatever else the Antifa demonstrators were carrying. They came there for a fight, and they got one, and both sides were to blame.
When [Trump] talked about the violence “on many sides,” I’m sure he was thinking of all the times that these left-wing protesters physically attacked Donald Trump supporters. I was at a rally in San Jose last June where a mob surrounded the venue and attacked Donald Trump supporters as they were leaving. And the mayor of that town blamed Donald Trump for the violence.
Pollak also pointed out that Trump had denounced extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan in the past, but received no credit from the media for it.
Asked whether he thought former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon had prevented Trump from naming specific groups, Pollak said: “I think Steve Bannon is a person who cares about including a variety of voices. I can say that from experience at Breitbart, where he promoted the profile of black conservatives, gay conservatives, Muslim conservatives.” There was no basis for linking Trump or Bannon to the groups in Charlottesville, he added.
Listen to the fill interview here (1:21:35 – 1:25:36).
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.