Fox News provided cover for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump after he claimed that “riots” would erupt if he does not secure the Republican Party's nomination at its convention this summer. While Fox called the comment “a figure of speech” and claimed Trump “was just talking metaphorically,” other media said Trump's remark is another instance of his violent rhetoric.
Trump Warns That Supporters May Riot If He Isn't The GOP Nominee
NY Times: Trump “Warned Of 'Riots'” If “The Party Moves To Select Another Candidate” At The Convention. The New York Times reported on March 16 that Donald Trump “warned of 'riots' around the Republican National Convention should he fall slightly short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination and the party moves to select another candidate”:
Donald J. Trump warned of “riots” around the Republican National Convention should he fall slightly short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination and the party moves to select another candidate.
The remark from Mr. Trump, in an interview on CNN's “New Day,” came less than 12 hours after he won the Republican primaries in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina and extended his delegate lead to roughly 200 over his closest competitor, Senator Ted Cruz.
“I think we'll win before getting to the convention, but I can tell you, if we didn't and if we're 20 votes short or if we're 100 short and we're at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400, because we're way ahead of everybody, I don't think you can say that we don't get it automatically,” Mr. Trump said. “I think it would be -- I think you'd have riots. I think you'd have riots. I'm representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people.”
He added: “If you disenfranchise those people and you say, well I'm sorry but you're 100 votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short, I think you would have problems like you've never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I believe that. I wouldn't lead it but I think bad things would happen.”
The comments came days after Mr. Trump was the subject of widespread criticism for his violent words against protesters at his rallies. His event in Chicago on Fridaynight was canceled as his supporters and people protesting him scuffled inside a University of Illinois at Chicago arena. [New York Times, 3/16/16]
Fox News Covers For Trump By Claiming His Statement Was Just “A Figure Of Speech”
Fox & Friends Hosts: “It Was A Figure Of Speech.” On the March 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy argued that the “mainstream media” response to Trump's comments was overblown and asserted that it was just “a figure of speech”:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Yesterday, Donald Trump made the observation that if he is a few votes short of clinching the nomination this summer in Cleveland the people that are his supporters would go crazy, and he's right. And at one point he used the 'R' word, he said 'they could riot.' I think it was a figure of speech, nonetheless mainstream media well they rioted on TV.
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): I'm just stunned by this because I heard him say it, it was a figure of speech, when people say oh, there's going to be hell to pay or there's going to be blood in the streets. I mean, it's unfortunate because we're coming off a weekend in which there was something canceled because of a riot, Ainsley. But I don't think he meant it like there's going to be riots. But I'll tell you something, if they take it away from Donald Trump and he is running away with it but doesn't have 1,237 [delegates], that'll be a problem. I thought, anyway. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/17/16]
Fox's Ainsley Earhardt: Trump's “Just Saying ... Get Behind Me, Support Me.” On the March 17 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that Trump was “just saying enough already, enough establishment. Get behind me, support me”:
AINSLEY EARHARDT: Yeah, he's just saying enough already, enough establishment. Get behind me, support me. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/17/16]
Chris Wallace: Trump “Was Just Talking Metaphorically.” On the March 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, Fox host Chris Wallace asserted that Trump “was just talking metaphorically” because “there'd be a lot of people who'd be upset,” adding “forget the idea of actual riots in the street”:
JON SCOTT: Donald Trump is saying if that he doesn't get the nomination, he says there are going to be riots. That his fans are going to be rioting. Obviously Republican leadership has to be careful how they handle this thing from here on out.
CHRIS WALLACE: Yeah, look, I don't take that at his word. I think he was just talking metaphorically, there'd be a lot of people who'd be upset. And that's putting it mildly. Forget the idea of actual riots in the street. There are an awful lot of people who have supported Donald Trump. I mean he's going to go into this convention almost certainly with more delegates than anybody else, even if he is short of 1,237. Let's say he goes in with 1,000 delegates, he'll still be 200 short. If there's a perception that the nomination was taken from him, there are an awful lot of, forget the delegates, an awful lot of voters who supported Trump, went out in all of these primaries and voted for him, who would be very unhappy. So if he doesn't get the nomination and has gone in with a lead, the party is going to have to go to great pains to try to convince them that message has been heard. And I am not sure Donald Trump's supporters, and as we know they really are zealous in their support for Donald Trump, I'm not sure how you would convince them that he doesn't have the nomination stolen from him. That would be a huge task for the Republicans. Again, all of this is just speculation, assuming that he had the lead, didn't get the nomination, and that somebody else did. [Fox News, Happening Now, 3/17/16]
Greta Van Susteren: “If I Use That Expression I'd Be Talking About Great Passion.” On the March 16 edition of On The Record, host Greta Van Susteren stated that “if I use that expression” of riots breaking out, “I'd be talking about great passion” and not riots erupting in the streets:
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN (HOST): Matt, thinking of riots, if I use that expression I'd be talking about great passion and that people would be yelling and screaming. Do you think that he, what do you think his definition is? Is it more akin to riots on the street or passion?
MATT VISER: Well, I think the streets could be blocked. I think his supporters are very passionate. I think they would show up.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you think riots on the street is what he is talking about?
VISER: I mean, yeah, potentially. I mean I think his supporters would flood from all across the country into Cleveland to protest if is he robbed of the nomination. And, you know, that's a possibility at this point. I mean, the party is looking at all these different machinations and ways to sort of stop him.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know how he's using the word. I know how I would use the word. When we say riots -- if he's using it like riots on the street, that's a big deal. [Fox News, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, 3/16/16]
Fox's Outnumbered Hosts: “I Don't Think He Means He Wants Violence In The Streets.” While discussing Trump's riot comments on the March 17 edition of Outnumbered, Fox Business host Anthony Scaramucci claimed “I don't think he means he wants violence in the streets,” while co-host Andrea Tantaros added that “a lot of people ... on Twitter and social media” are saying Trump “without the filter [is] just saying what's likely to happen even though he's not condoning it”:
ANDREA TANTAROS (HOST): OK, Anthony, what do you make of Donald Trump saying that if he's denied the nomination, if they try and shut him out, there's likely to be violent acts?
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: One of the things we've learned about him, he doesn't have a great filter for this sort of stuff , so using the word riot was probably the wrong thing to say. I don't think he means he wants violence in the streets. But I think what he's saying is that he's won the process, he's done all the work, Andrea. He's gone to all the elections, filled out all the campaigning stuff. If he's at 1100,1150, they don't give him the nomination, there's going to be a lot of upset people. He could have said it like that, it would have gone over way better. And I think he has to watch himself now. Somehow we've got to get a presidential edit-chip in his personality going forward for people to find him acceptable as the nominee.
ANTAROS: Stacey, we can't do an edit-delete, and Donald Trump doesn't even like edit-delete.
STACEY DASH: I know that personally.
TANTAROS: We love you for it. A lot of people though, I see on Twitter and social media saying, well, he's right. Donald Trump is right, and so there you go, Donald Trump without the filter just saying what's likely to happen even though he's not condoning it.[Fox News, Outnumbered, 3/17/16]
Media Note That Trump's Riot Warning Fits Into To His History Of “Hinting At The Possibility Of Violence,” Without Denouncing It
Wash. Post's Greg Sargent: “Trump Has Been Playing A Clever Little Game Where He Hints At The Possibility Of Violence,” But This Time, “Trump Has Made This Explicit.” In a March 16 blog post, Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent said, “Trump has been playing a clever little game where he hints at the possibility of violence while stopping short of explicitly threatening it,” and without denouncing it. He added that with his riot comments, “Trump has made this explicit” (emphasis original):
It's hard to say whether this is intended as a threat or a prediction. But the unsettling fact of the matter is that there is no particular reason to rule out the former -- that it was indeed intended as a tacit threat, as least of a certain kind. Trump has been playing a clever little game where he hints at the possibility of violence while stopping short of explicitly threatening it -- yet he also doesn't denounce such an outcome as unacceptable, so his hints effectively function as a threat.
Now Trump has made this explicit. [The Washington Post, 3/16/16]
MSNBC.com: Trump's “Shattering Political Norms ... That Violence Has No Place Anywhere Near The Political Process.” In a March 16 article, MSNBC political reporter Benjy Sarlin said “Trump's campaign is all about shattering political norms,” including the standard “that violence has no place anywhere near the political process”:
In that context, the message to Republicans was clear on Wednesday: Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.
“I think bad things would happen, I really do,” Trump said. “I believe that. I wouldn't lead it but I think bad things would happen.”
Trump's candidacy is all about shattering political norms, but if there's one bedrock principle of American democracy universally shared by elected officials it's that violence has no place anywhere near the political process.
Not so for Trump. [MSNBC.com, 3/16/16]
Media Have Repeatedly Highlighted How Trump's Rhetoric Incites Violence
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]
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]
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]