Donald Trump was given repeated opportunities during an interview on Sunday to condemn his apparent supporter who punched and kicked a protester who was being escorted out of a rally in Tucson, Arizona. He did not take them. The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that “we don’t condone violence” but strongly suggested demonstrators deserve at least some of the blame when they get punched and kicked.
In a video posted by a student who went to the rally, the protester—who was wearing an American flag shirt and had a sign that read “Trump is Bad for America”—was being led out of the room when a member of the crowd reached out, grabbed his sign, and began to punch and kick him. The aggressor was quickly put in handcuffs and led out of the rally as well.
Went to the Trump rally just to see how crazy it would be........this is insane pic.twitter.com/QFwSwmNoI0— Alex Satterly (@alex_satterly) March 19, 2016
Separately, another protester wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood was also led out of the rally. Trump said he could understand why tempers flared considering what that protester was wearing.
Trump: These people are very disruptive people, George.
Stephanopoulos: But does that excuse ...
Trump: These are not innocent lambs.
Stephanopoulos: … punching and kicking a protester?
Trump: Well, you know, he was wearing—he or his partner was wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. This happened to be an African American man who was very—a person at the rally, who was very, very incensed at the fact that somebody, a protester, would be wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
Stephanopoulos: So you’re not going to condemn the protester who kicked and punched that person?
Trump: We don’t condone violence and I say it. And we have very little violence, very, very little violence at the rallies.
Stephanopoulos: So you’re blaming the protesters, not the person who actually punched and kicked the protester?
Trump: No, I’m, I’m saying this. These are professional agitators and I think that somebody should say that when a road is blocked going into the event so that people have to wait sometimes hours to get in, I think that’s very fair and there should be blame there, too.
Trump also came out in defense of his campaign manager, staunchly denying that he grabbed a protester at a rally in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday. A brief video posted online by a CBS News reporter appears to pretty clearly show how Corey Lewandowski aggressively pulled a protester by his collar during the event. Another man who appears to be private security for Trump also appears to pull at the protester’s collar.
Here is Donald Trump's campaign manager in the Tucson crowd grabbing the collar of a protester. pic.twitter.com/JZ9RntWlHY— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) March 19, 2016
Trump and his campaign, however, insist the video doesn’t show what it pretty clearly shows. Lewandowski “didn’t touch” the protester, Trump told Stephanopoulos. “Well, the video does show …” Stephanopoulos begins to say, before Trump interrupts him: “That was somebody else pulling them …” And then the Republican front-runner even went on to celebrate his campaign manager’s actions: “I give him credit for having spirit. He wanted them to take down those horrible profanity-laced signs.”
The incident comes a little more than a week after reporter Michelle Fields accused Lewandowski of forcefully grabbing her and pulling her away from Trump as she was trying to ask the candidate a question.