When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Donald Trump whether his rhetoric might encourage violence at campaign events, he replied: “I hope not. I truly hope not.”
Speaking at yesterday’s Republican debate (Mar. 11), the frontrunner went on to assert, however, that the people who disrupt his events are “bad dudes, they have done bad things” and need to be stopped by any means necessary:
“They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they 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.”
“There is some anger,” Trump added. “There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects.”
The remark comes after two troubling incidents this week: Trump’s campaign manager allegedly roughed up a Breitbart reporter on Tuesday; on Wednesday, Black Lives Matter protester Rakeem Jones was sucker-punched by a Trump supporter at a rally in North Carolina.
The 78-year-old attacker, John McGraw, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident, according to the Cumberland County sheriff’s office.
Footage published by Inside Edition shows McGraw gleefully recounting the act. “You bet I liked it,” he told the interviewer, “knocking the hell out of that big mouth.”
He added, ludicrously, that he had no way of knowing if Jones was somehow affiliated with the Islamic State. “But we know he’s not acting like an American, cussing me… If he wants it laid out, I laid it out,” he said. “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton addressed the event during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. “Count me among those who are truly distraught and even appalled by a lot of what I see going on, what I hear being said,” she said. “You know, you don’t make America great by, you know, dumping on everything that made America great, like freedom of speech and assembly and, you know, the right of people to protest.”
Most of Trump’s Republican opponents sidestepped the issue. Texas senator Ted Cruz touched on it briefly, only to justify the recent spate of violence at Trump rallies as a reaction to president Obama’s policies.