President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised US police departments and downplayed police violence against black people, saying "more white people" are killed by police officers.
During a CBS News interview, the Republican president was asked why black people were still dying at the hands of law enforcement.
"And so are white people, so are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people," Mr Trump responded.
The death of African-American George Floyd on May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis sparked protests across the United States and has led to an increased focus on US police violence against black people.
According to a Washington Post analysis updated on Monday, half of people killed by police are white, but black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the US population but are killed by police at over twice the rate of white Americans, the newspaper analysis found.
Some Americans argue that the Black Lives Matter protests have unfairly maligned the police forces.
Mr Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, defended police departments, saying they "do an incredible job in this country."
"You can have a rogue, terrible cop, on occasion like you do in any industry, any business, in any profession," Mr Trump added.
The American Civil Liberties Union's Jeffery Robinson said in a statement in response that Mr Trump's comments were racist.
"Trump's racism is so absolute that he continues to refuse to give even a tacit acknowledgment to the epidemic of police violence against black people in America," he said.
Recent social unrest has raised new questions about the flying of the Confederate battle flag in areas of the country and whether statues honouring Confederate leaders during the US Civil War should be removed from prominent places.
Asked by CBS if the flag should be "taken down," Mr Trump responded: "I know people that like the Confederate flag and they're not thinking about slavery."
He added: "It's freedom of speech."
Mr Trump has been under fire for his response to the mass anti-racism protests that broke out across the across the nation following the killing of George Floyd. In the face of demands for racial justice and equality, Mr Trump has instead leaned in on a law-and-order message, painting mostly peaceful protesters as domestic "terrorists" and continuing to stoke divisions.
Mr Trump defended the white St Louis couple captured on video brandishing guns as they defended their home during one racial injustice protest.
Mr Trump claimed that Mark and Patricia McCloskey "were going to be beat up badly, if they were lucky" and said their house would have been "totally ransacked and probably burned down" had they not been out there.
"And now I understand somebody local, they want to prosecute these people. It's a disgrace," he said.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson told reporters that he spoke with Mr Trump and US Attorney-General William Barr by phone on Tuesday and that the president expressed concern that St Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat, may file charges against the couple.
"I think the president didn't like what he was seeing, and the way people are being treated," Mr Parson said, adding, "I think you'll see some sort of actions."