A Breitbart editor has defended the right of white supremacists to demonstrate in Charlottesville by arguing that Nazis were allowed to march through the neighbourhoods of Holocaust survivors.
Joel Pollak, the senior editor-at-large of the far-right news website, said Donald Trump was “absolutely correct” to blame all sides following violence at a far-right rally in Virginia over the weekend, accusing left-wing protesters of “looking for a fight”.
The president came under fire from politicians across the spectrum on Saturday when he failed to specifically condemn the actions of Nazis and white nationalists at the rally, only giving a definitive response last night.
Violence at the event led Virginia to be placed in a state of emergency, while one woman was killed and several others were injured when a man ploughed his car into a group of peaceful anti-facist protesters.
But Pollak defended Trump’s original comments, saying the First Amendment protects “hateful speech”.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he grew up in Skokie, Illinois, a large Jewish community “which at the time had the largest number of Holocaust survivors in the world”.
“The Nazis wanted to march through Skokie,” he said.
“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.”
Pollak went on to accuse left-wing protest group Antifa of being opposed to this use of First Amendment rights, saying some of them arrived “armed” to the Nazi rally in Charlottesville.
“The principle is that when you’re holding a demonstration that’s got a legal permit, as these Nazis and white supremacists where, they have the right to say what they say,” he said.
“The right response is to ridicule them, not 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.”
When asked whether White House chief strategist Steve Bannon - the former executive chairman of Breitbart News - was one of the reasons why it took Trump so long to condemn Nazis at the rally, Pollak said he wasn’t aware of who had written the president’s speech on Saturday.
“Donald Trump ad-libbed some of his remarks and he said what was in his heart,” Pollak said.
“And when he spoke about violence on many sides, I’m sure he was thinking of the many times these left-wing protesters physically attacked Donald Trump supporters.”
The BBC faced criticism over the decision to invite Pollak onto the show, with some listeners calling it “dangerous” and “utterly wrong”: