A day after a black man was punched in the face by a white Donald Trump rally attendee and then wrestled to the ground by police officers, Trump shrugged off any responsibility and expressed sympathy for the anger his supports feel.
Asked at Thursday’s Republican debate whether he might have created a tone of violence, Trump responded “I hope not. I truly hope not.” While saying he has not condoned violence against protesters, he defended his supporters as having “tremendous passion.”
“When they see protesters, when they see what’s going in on the country, they have anger. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals, higher taxes, loss of their jobs.”
Moderator Jake Tapper noted that Trump has frequently egged on his supporters, “including February 23: ‘I’d like to punch him in the face,’ referring to a protester. February 27: ‘In the good ol’ days, they’d have knocked him out of seat so fast.’ February 1: ‘Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, okay? Just knock the hell.” He also noted that Trump promised last month to pay for the legal fees of any supporter who roughs up a protester.
“We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things,” Trump replied, “They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and start hitting people. And we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people — not only the loudness, the loudness I don’t mind. But doing serious damage.”
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