President Donald Trump is the killing of a counter-protester.for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white supremacists that led to
Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with a call for unity, saying, "What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America and tonight, this entire arena stands united in forceful condemnation of the thugs that perpetrated hatred and violence."
But he quickly trained his ire on the media, shouting that he "openly called for healing unity and love" in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville and claiming the media had misrepresented him. He read from his three responses to the violence—getting more animated with each one.
Democrats and fellow Republicans had denounced Trump for placing blame for the Charlottesville violence on "both sides."
Trump spoke after Vice President Mike Pence and others called repeatedly for unity.
Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., were among the openers. Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham, led the rally-goers in prayer, saying, "We're divided racially, and we're adrift morally."
Outside the Phoenix convention center, shouting matches and minor scuffles erupted between Trump supporters and protesters gathered near the site of his latest campaign rally. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton had asked Trump to delay his political event to allow for more time of national healing after Charlottesville.
Eager to capitalize on his hard-line stance on immigration, Trump had teased the politically inflammatory possibility of pardoning former sheriff Joe Arpaio while in town. The former Maricopa County sheriff is awaiting sentencing after his conviction in federal court for disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wouldn't discuss or take action on a pardon "at any point today," even though the president had told Fox News he was considering it.
In the comfort of his most fervent fans, Trump often resurrects his free-wheeling 2016 campaign style, pinging insults at perceived enemies such as the media and meandering from topic to topic without a clear theme.
Neither of Arizona's two Republican senators appeared with Trump.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville, Alan Fram in Washington, and Josh Hoffner in Phoenix contributed to this report.