Aug. 23 (UPI) -- At a rally in Phoenix Tuesday night, President Donald Trump went into campaign mode in front of a cheering audience as he blasted the media for criticizing his response to the Charlottesville protests -- and hinted that he might pardon former Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Trump was admonished by critics for taking too long to respond to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, when protesters clashed with counter-protesters -- and a woman was killed.
"Why did it take a day?" Trump said of his comments made the day after the protests.
Mocking his critics, he added: "He must be a racist! It took a day."
Trump also accused media organizations of "giving a platform to hate groups."
"It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions, and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions and yes, by the way -- and yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage," he said.
In response to criticism that he didn't say enough to condemn racism and bigotry, Trump fired back, arguing he called out several white supremacist groups.
"I hit them with neo-Nazi, I hit them with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got them all," he said.
The president also reiterated his comdemnation for hate groups.
"What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America. And tonight, this entire arena stands united against the thugs who perpetrate hatred and violence," he said. "I strongly condemn neo-Nazis, white Supremacists and the KKK."
Trump also hinted that he might pardon Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt last month for violating a judge's orders to stop racial profiling in immigration arrests.
"So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? ... You know what, I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine, OK? But I won't do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good," Trump said.
The American Civil Liberties Union responded to Trump' statements about Arpaio on Twitter.
"No, President Trump. Arpaio was not 'just doing his job.' He was violating the Constitution and discriminating against Latinos," the organization said.
Before the rally, Trump stopped in Yuma, Ariz., a city on the U.S.-Mexico border, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials praised the president's tough stance on immigration.
"What he's done so far has worked," Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters. "We need funding to make it permanent. We need to build a wall."