CNN host Don Lemon defended militant group Antifa on Tuesday, acknowledging its violent past while saying "no organization is perfect."
Lemon's comments came during a discussion on his primetime show about the group's clashes with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia last year, The Hill reports.
"It says it right in the name: Antifa, anti-fascism, which was what they were there fighting," Lemon said. "Listen, no organization is perfect. There was some violence. No one condones violence, but there were different reasons for Antifa and for these neo-Nazis to be there. One, racists, fascists, the other group, fighting racist fascists. There is a distinction there."
The discussion arose after it was reported President Donald Trump warned evangelical leaders during a closed door meeting Monday that Republican midterm loses could lead Democrats to "overturn everything that we've done and they will do it quickly and violently."
"There's violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people," Trump said, according to an audiotape of his remarks provided to the New York Times by an event attendee.
The same night on Wolf Blitzer's "The Situation Room," CNN chief legal analyst Jeffery Toobin called Trump’s criticism of Antifa an "appeal to racism."
"Let's be clear also about what's going on here, the theme here is ‘I'm Donald Trump and I'll protect you from the scary black people,'" Toobin said in a clip flagged by the Daily Wire. " Antifa is widely perceived as an African-American organization and this is just part of the same story of LeBron James and Don Lemon and Maxine Waters and the NFL players and the UCLA basketball players."
While many Antifa supporters dress in all black, it is unclear where Toobin derived his assessment that the group is "widely perceived as an African-American organization." Antifa has been responsible for numerous incidents of violence over the past month alone. A couple weeks ago, members of Antifa who were counter-protesting a far-right rally in Washington, D.C. threw eggs and water bottles, and shot fireworks at police and some journalists.
Earlier this month, an Antifa protest in Berkeley resulted in members of the group smashing the windows of a Marine Corps recruiting office. The person who recorded the incident said several Antifa members warned him, "Get the f— back. Cops aren't here. They won't help you."
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security began warning state and local authorities in early 2016 that Antifa was becoming increasingly violent and referred to its members as "anarchist extremists."
During the final year of the Obama administration, DHS classified the group's activities as "domestic terrorist violence."