After a series of violent incidents at Republican front-runner Donald Trump's public events, media are saying Trump has “some accountability” for “creating this hostile atmosphere” that leads to violence, noting in particular the violent rhetoric he employs in his speeches.
Trump Supporter Punches Protester In The Face At Trump Rally
NY Times: “A Black Protester ... Was Sucker-Punched And Shoved By A Trump Supporter” At A Trump Campaign Rally. The New York Times reported on March 10 that videos on social media showed a “black protester” being “sucker-punched and shoved by a Trump supporter” at a Trump rally in North Carolina. The Times pointed out that the assault “was not the first violent incident at a Trump rally”:
A black protester being escorted out of a Donald J. Trump campaign rally on Wednesday in Fayetteville, N.C., was sucker-punched and shoved by a Trump supporter, several videos on social media show.
The protester, identified by The Washington Post as Rakeem Jones, 26, was being walked by sheriff's officers up an aisle at the Crown Coliseum, amid loud boos from the crowd, when a white man in a cowboy hat stepped toward Mr. Jones, punched him in the face and shoved him off-balance.
Mr. Jones stumbled, then could be seen on the floor surrounded by sheriff's deputies. In some of the videos, at least two deputies who were following Mr. Jones up the arena steps could be seen walking past the man who had just punched Mr. Jones.
It was not the first violent incident at a Trump rally, nor the first with racial overtones. Another African-American protester, a female student at the University of Louisville, was pushed and jostled at a rally in Louisville this month and called “leftist scum” and racial slurs.
Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, called such incidents unfortunate but said the campaign had “no control” over its supporters' behavior. She did note that the campaign plays a safety announcement before each event, instructing the crowd not to touch or harm protesters. [The New York Times, 3/10/16]
Media Call Out Trump For “Creating This Hostile Atmosphere” At His Events
ABC's Matthew Dowd: Trump Has “Some Accountability” For “Creating A Culture” Of Violence At Rallies. On the March 11 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, political analyst Matthew Dowd pointed out that Trump and his campaign have been “creating a culture or an environment” where violence at rallies can occur and that “there is some accountability that he and his campaign have” for the violence that takes place at his events:
TOM LLAMAS: The Trump campaign saying they discourage this kind of behavior and ensure the safety of any and all attendees, but the attack follows weeks of Trump suggesting to his supporters they get violent.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): You saw in the debate last night that Donald Trump's opponents did not lay this at his feet. But is this any kind of a danger, these incidents of violence to Donald Trump's campaign?
MATTHEW DOWD: Well, it seems like it's a danger to a lot of people at the rallies. I don't think it's actually going to be a political danger right now in the course of this. I think Donald Trump said last night, listen, I discourage this, I don't want this. But I think there is some accountability that he and his campaign have for creating a culture or an environment around that these things happen. I think going forward they have to do everything possible to stop this kind of thing from happening. Sometimes it does, George, as you know, these things happen, but politically it's not going to hurt Donald Trump right now going into Tuesday. [ABC, Good Morning America, 3/11/16]
Huffington Post: Trump Is Making Violent Episodes At Events “Part Of His Brand, And Uses Them To Rev Up Crowds.” In a March 10 article, The Huffington Post reported that “racial slurs, nasty rhetoric and violence” at Trump's events “have become commonplace against protesters, bystanders, and reporters.” The article explained that “rather than denounce these incidents, Trump is making them part of his brand and uses them to rev up crowds”:
Racial slurs, nasty rhetoric and violence at Trump rallies have become commonplace against protesters, bystanders, and reporters. Assaults are committed not only by rowdy Trump fans, but by the staff he employs to keep the events safe. But rather than denounce these incidents, Trump is making them part of his brand, and uses them to rev up crowds.
“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience,” Trump warned people at a rally in Iowa last month. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”
Trump has even threatened to personally get in on the action. “I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell ya,” he said of a protester on Feb. 22.
Threats against reporters have become so pervasive at Trump rallies that many of those who cover the Republican front-runner seem to have a personal story. As Katy Tur, the Trump embed for NBC News, described in a Tweet, “Trump trashes press. Crowd jeers. Guy by press 'pen' looks at us & screams ”you're a bitch!" Other gentleman gives cameras the double bird." [The Huffington Post, 3/10/16]
The Atlantic: “Trump Encourages The Crowd To Vent Its Fury At The Protesters.” In a March 10 article, Atlantic staff writer David Graham pointed out that at his events, “Trump encourages the crowd to vent its fury at the protesters”:
Trump encourages the crowd to vent its fury at the protesters. “See, in the good old days this didn't use to happen, because they used to treat them very rough,” he said. “We've become very weak.” At least one supporter felt the same way: Videos shot at the event showed a man punching a protester as he was removed. The puncher has been charged with assault. [The Atlantic, 3/10/16]
Chuck Todd: Trump's Language Is “Creating This Hostile Atmosphere” At His Rallies. On the March 11 edition of NBC's Today, NBC political director and host of Meet the Press Chuck Todd said Trump's language, including moments where he spoke about “punching people in the face,” contributes to “creating this hostile environment” where violence occurs:
MATT LAUER (HOST): This issue of violence at some of the Trump's rallies, the protester being punched, the alleged altercation between Trump's campaign manager and this reporter -- did Trump say what he had to say when asked about it? Isn't the only answer, Chuck, I will not tolerate any violence at my events?
CHUCK TODD: It's not, not only is that the only answer, he needs to take it up to another level. Remember what John McCain did toward the end of the '08 campaign where the McCain-Palin rallies were both exciting, rowdy, and a little over the line, a little on edge? McCain stepped up and sort of calmed it down himself. The candidate himself, Donald Trump at these events, needs to not talk about punching people in the face, singling out the media the way he does.
LAUER: Needs to set the tone.
TODD: And creating this hostile atmosphere. It is on him to calm things down. He can't -- he's not responsible for how people act. I understand that. But he can set a different tone. He's going to have to have a moment where he does that, like John McCain did. It helped McCain. I actually think it would politically help Trump if he did it. That's the irony, here. It would be in his political best interest to do this, not just in the safety of people that are there. [NBC, Today, 3/11/16]
Mike Barnicle: “Trump's Rhetoric Emboldens The Crowd” To Act Violently. On the March 11 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, columnist Mike Barnicle explained that during his rallies, “Donald Trump's rhetoric emboldens the crowd” to lash out violently:
JOHN HEILEMANN: It seems to me, especially this issue of Trump's rallies, it's been a building controversy now for some number of weeks and months. Mark [Halperin] and I have both been to those events and they have, a lot of things we've said about Donald Trump rallies. But there is a kind of aggression at times and a raucousness that is a little unusual and not like anything we've seen covering presidential campaigns for about 25 years. What do you think?
MIKE BARNICLE: You know, I'm with you, John and Mark, on that score. There is something about his rallies, and Donald Trump's rhetoric emboldens the crowd in front of him. It's not what he says, it's how he says it. It's his demeanor. And I think it emboldens crowds to act as they have sometimes acted in the past. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 3/11/16]
Vox: “The Problem With Violence At Trump Rallies Starts With Trump Himself.” In a March 11 article, Vox's Dara Lind wrote that “Trump is not just condoning violence. He is encouraging it.” Lind explained, “the fact remains that [Trump] has consistently encouraged rallygoers to beat up protesters” and justified their actions citing their "'passion' for his campaign and America":
When Donald Trump was asked about the incident at CNN's debate Thursday night, he generally defended the attendees at his rallies. But he did, briefly, say that “I don't like” what happened in Fayetteville, and “I certainly don't condone that at all.”
That, frankly speaking, is bullshit. Even if Donald Trump does not, in his heart, want to see people getting beaten up at his rallies, the fact remains that he has consistently encouraged rallygoers to beat up protesters. Even more worrisomely, he has consistently justified his followers' desire to beat people up in terms of their “passion” for his campaign and America.
This isn't about the message Trump is communicating to the press or to voters. It's about the message he is sending to his followers. Trump effectively communicated to his followers that it is good and natural, that their frustration with the state of the country shows itself in the desire to beat people up. That it's “beautiful.” [Vox, 3/11/16]
Lawrence O'Donnell: “We've Never Seen A Presidential Candidate Encourage Violence, But Trumpism Has Changed Everything.” On the March 10 edition of MSNBC's The Last Word, host Lawrence O'Donnell said of Trump: “We've never seen a presidential candidate encourage violence, but Trumpism has changed everything.” O'Donnell juxtaposed the language of a man who punched a protester to Trump's, pointing out that Trump had “discussed killing people who don't agree with him, thought about it on TV for a moment, and then decided not to do it”:
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: We've never seen a presidential candidate encourage violence, but Trumpism has changed everything. Last night in Fayetteville, North Carolina, local sheriff's deputies decided to order Rakeem Jones to leave a Trump rally just as Donald Trump began speaking. Mr. Jones and his friends fully complied with the sheriff's deputies, who surrounded them as they walked out, and then this happened. That was John McGraw who reached over to punch Rakeem Jones. Sheriff deputies treated John McGraw as just another happy Trump supporter and allowed him to go back to his seat while they threw Rakeem Jones to the floor and treated him like a criminal. The sheriff deputies then led Rakeem Jones out of the building and no charges were filed, until today when video of what happened appeared on social media and television. Sheriff's deputies then arrested John McGraw and charged him with assault and battery and disorderly conduct. Last month,this is how Donald Trump urged his supporters to treat protesters.
DONALD TRUMP: Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK, just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.
O'DONNELL: John McGraw now knows what that promise was worth. He is spending the night in jail tonight being held on only $2,500 bail, which he apparently cannot afford, and he's not getting a penny of help from Donald Trump. The Trump campaign issued a statement saying, quote, “We are not involved.” Thanks to Inside Edition, we know exactly how proud John McGraw was of throwing that punch the night that he did it, a story that is sure to change under oath in a courtroom.
JOHN MCGRAW: Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.
O'DONNELL: Might have to kill him. Now, where would a Trump supporter ever get an idea like that?
TRUMP: By the way, I hate some of these people, but I'd never kill them. I hate them. No, I think, no these people, honestly, I'll be honest, I'll be honest, I would never kill them. I would never do that. Let's see, uh, no I wouldn't.
O'DONNELL: Yes, that was the first time in history that an American presidential candidate discussed killing people who don't agree with him, thought about it on TV for a moment, and then decided not to do it. At least one of his supporters is in jail tonight, still thinking about it. [MSNBC, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/10/16]
CNN's Chris Cuomo: Trump's Comments About Protesters Are “Sending A Dangerous Message.” On the March 11 edition of CNN's New Day, Chris Cuomo explained that comments Trump has made like “I want to punch that guy in the face” are “sending a dangerous message.” Cuomo also questioned whether Trump does enough “to discourage the kind of ugliness” that has been seen at his events:
CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): The question is if not encourage, does Mr. Trump do enough to discourage the kind of ugliness that we saw recently at your events?
SAM CLOVIS: Yes, I think so. And I think if you've been to the events, Chris, you know that we coach the crowd before Mr. Trump arrives. We have a very strong pregame that gets up and talks about this very issue. About the fact that there will be protesters that come in and how the protesters are to be treated, and so we have that up front, and then Mr. Trump himself, typically when the protests break out, that he's always said, let the local people handle it, and let that go. And I think what has to be looked at here is the fact that the size of the crowds that we get at a lot of our events, there's no way to possibly screen all of these people. These are not séances. These are political rallies. So you're going to have people, who are there, who are excited and sometimes emotions overcome people. And we're talking about a crowd of 25,000 people, one person. So, OK. We discourage it. We absolutely do, and I think you know that we do a tremendous amount of work up front to discourage people from this kind of behavior.
CUOMO: Right. One more quick step on this and I want to talk about something that projects larger on this regard. It's not that they're excited, they're ugly and they're brutish when they do things like this. And you know that. I'm sure you don't condone that behavior. But when you say, you know, 'I want to punch that guy in the face', and you say 'get 'em outta here', it becomes somewhat of a ritual at the events, that is sending a dangerous message. I don't think that's an arguable point, the question is, do you change course from here now that we see a pattern.
CLOVIS: I don't know that we've seen what you would call a pattern. I think that we've be had a couple of occasions to that, but how many rallies have we held? I mean, my goodness, hundreds. And we've seen millions of people. So we're talking, you know, two or three incidents here that would probably happen in the course of human events. So, again, we're not condoning. We condemn this type of behavior and you know we spent a lot of time telling people not to behave this way. [CNN, New Day, 3/11/16]
Rachel Maddow: Trump Has “Continued Egging On His Supporters To Do This Kind Of Thing.” On the March 10 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, host Rachel Maddow explained that after the violent incident, Trump continued his pattern of “egging on his supporters to do this kind of thing”:
RACHEL MADDOW: One of the particularly unsettling things about this political season is that violence is no longer an unexpected side show at political rallies for the Republican presidential front-runner this year. It's now, basically, an expected part of the show.
MADDOW: I think it's fair to point out, though, that after this happened, after this man did this at this rally last night in North Carolina, Donald Trump, himself, from the podium, continued egging on his supporters to do this kind of thing. [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/10/16]
CBS' John Dickerson: Someone Being Punched At A Trump Rally “Doesn't Seem Out Of Step” With Trump's Violent Rhetoric. On the March 11 edition of CBS This Morning, CBS political director and Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson pointed out that at Trump's rallies, “when protesters pop up, he talks about how he would like to hit them, how in the old days they would have been taken out in a stretcher.” Dickerson explained that “someone being sucker-punched” at a Trump rally “doesn't seem out of step” with his rhetoric:
CHARLIE ROSE (HOST): Is this issue of conduct and behavior at Trump rallies have any impact on this campaign? Is it a growing issue or not?
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, it certainly had an impact on the campaign in terms of the tone and it was striking last night that in the debate, none of his rivals really picked up on this. I mean, Donald Trump at his rallies, several that I've attended and others as well, talks about when these protesters pop up, he talks about how he would like to hit them, how in the old days they would have been taken out on a stretcher. This doesn't seem out of step with comments like that, someone being sucker-punched. [CBS, CBS This Morning, 3/11/16]
MSNBC'S Chris Hayes: Violence At Trump Rallies Comes With “A Wink And A Nudge, If Not More From The Candidate Himself.” On the March 11 edition of MSNBC's All In, host Chris Hayes explained that violence at Trump's rallies is often accompanied by “a wink and a nudge, if not more from the candidate himself”:
CHRIS HAYES: Events at the Trump rally in North Carolina followed a series of incidents in which protesters have faced threats, physical intimidation, and shoving, spitting, things like that at Trump rallies often with with a wink and a nudge, if not more from the candidate himself. [MSNBC, All In with Chris Hayes, 3/10/16]
WSJ Editorial Board: Trump Uses “Reckless Language” That “Can Seem To Condone Violence From His Supporters.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board explained on March 13 that Trump's “reckless language can seem to condone violence from his supporters”:
With his unrestrained rhetoric about Mexicans, Muslims and even his fellow Republicans, Donald Trump has become a polarizing political figure of the kind the U.S. hasn't seen in many years. It's no surprise, then, that Mr. Trump has inspired a political counter-reaction.
What's as disturbing, however, is Mr. Trump's apparent instinct to respond to the protesters in kind. This includes his denunciations of free political speech. A few weeks ago he said he would rewrite the libel laws to sue the press to muzzle his critics. He has threatened this newspaper with a defamation suit merely because we noted his evident lack of knowledge about the Pacific trade deal. In Kansas City on Saturday he assailed “lying, thieving reporters.”
Worse, his reckless language can seem to condone violence from his supporters. Last month he responded to one protester by saying that “the guards are very gentle with him. He's walking out, like, big high-fives, smiling, laughing.” Then he added, to loud cheers, “I'd like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.”
Mr. Trump has shown no desire to tone any of this down, and perhaps he figures it will mobilize supporters to vote in Tuesday's important primaries. He may be right in that short-term political calculation, but the cost could be very high if he wins the nomination. Americans want a President they can respect, not one who is a constant source of turmoil.
Readers of a certain age will remember 1968, the worst election year in recent American history before this one, with its often violent protests. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. The protests this year have been mild by comparison, at least so far. But the first obligation of political leadership is maintaining civil order, and that goes in particular for those who aspire to be President. [The Wall Street Journal, 3/13/16]
Wash. Post Editorial Board: Trump Is “Creating An Environment That Has Caused Such Frightening Hostility.” In a March 12 editorial, the Washington Post editorial board wrote Donald Trump's “Republican rivals were right to call him out for creating an environment that has caused such frightening hostility” at his campaign events:
DONALD TRUMP boasts about his ability to deliver on his words. When he talks about wanting to “punch . . . in the face” or “knock the crap out” of people protesting him, he knows exactly what he is doing -- and what is likely to result. So it's really rich to see him attempt to distance himself from the violence and ugliness that have become staples of his campaign appearances.
Many presidential candidates, this year and in campaigns past, have managed to deal with disruptions to their events without resorting to hooliganism. Mr. Trump's Republican rivals were right to call him out for creating an environment that has caused such frightening hostility. There can be only one answer to incitement to violence from anyone who seeks to be president of the United States, and that is to unequivocally condemn it. Mr. Trump's tactics must not be accepted into American political life. [The Washington Post, 3/12/16]
CNN's John Berman: Trump “Helps Contribute To The Environment” Of Violence At His Events. On the March 14 edition of CNN's New Day, co-host John Berman explained that when Trump “says the types of things he says,” he “helps contribute to the environment” of violence at his events:
ERROL LOUIS: This is the Donald Trump, I think, what we've come to expect, which is that he'll sort of deny responsibility, he'll say things that are absolutely untrue and you've completely refuted it. That won't change him one bit. That probably won't change many of his followers, as a matter of fact. Donald Trump says it never happened. For a lot of people it never happened. There are also officers who got roughed up along the way when some of this jostling goes on.
JOHN BERMAN (CO-HOST): The chicken and egg almost to an extent doesn't matter when Donald Trump says the types of things that he says, when he helps contribute to the environment. [CNN, New Day, 3/14/16]
This post has been updated to include additional examples.