PALM BEACH, FLORIDA — One day after a Donald Trump supporter was indicted for punching a black protester at a campaign rally, Trump’s campaign manager did not immediately condemn the violence, saying Friday that the Republican front-runner’s supporters are “passionate” and “express it in different ways.”
“I think Mr. Trump’s people are very, very passionate and they’re angry because of the way that this country has been taken advantage of from so many other countries,” Corey Lewandowski said. “That’s a frustration level I think a lot of people in this country feel and people express it in different ways.”
Lewandowski’s explanation echoes the campaign’s response to two Trump supporters beating up a homeless Latino man in August. At the time, Trump said his supporters were “very passionate” and “love this country.” He later clarified that he did not approve of the beating.
When ThinkProgress pressed Lewandowski on whether punching a protester is an appropriate way to express anger, Lewandowski clarified that the campaign does not condone the violence. But he suggested the onus was on the protesters to simply stay home.
“What we want is to have the opportunity to bring Mr. Trump’s message to everyone in a respectful manner,” he said. “That’s why we make an announcement at the beginning of our rallies to say: ‘Please if you want to protest, just feel free to leave.’ I understand the notion of free speech but you also have the privilege of being in a private setting where other people want to come and listen to Mr. Trump.”
Though he may say that he doesn’t condone violence at the rallies, Lewandowski himself is facing allegations that he expressed his own frustration in an inappropriate way.
Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields says Lewandowski assaulted her at a campaign event on Tuesday, pulling her to the ground and leaving bruises on her arm. She released a photograph of the bruise, Politico published an audio transcript, and the Washington Post’s Ben Terris published an eyewitness account of the incident. But Lewandowski continues to say Fields is making the whole thing up.
ThinkProgress also asked Lewandowki if the campaign can do anything more to prevent the attacks.
“Well look, you put 10 or 20 or 30,000 people in a venue, I don’t know what you can do other than have obviously a large police presence,” he said. “We’ve got security all over the place and we ask people to you know, be respectful. And other than doing that I’m not sure what we can do. We try to be as inclusive as possible.”
Trump himself has defended the violence, saying on Thursday that some protesters are “bad dudes.”