Trump signals that his supporters could defend him with violence
In a wide-ranging interview with Breitbart this week, President Donald Trump bemoaned that liberals are more “vicious” than conservatives, even though he thinks of his own supporters as “tougher.” They’re so tough, in fact, that they could overpower their opponents with violence if they really wanted to, he believes.
According to Breitbart, the context for the comments was a discussion about how Trump wished former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other Republican leaders in Congress had done more to investigate and attack his political opponents, especially now that House Democrats are launching several new investigations against him. Earlier this month, they filed document requests seeking information about Trump’s campaign, presidency, and business to investigate a variety of crimes and corruption.
“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay?” Trump said. “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”
“But the left plays it cuter and tougher,” he continued. “Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this invest[igations] — that’s all they want to do is — you know, they do things that are nasty. Republicans never played this.”
It’s unclear from the printed text whether Trump was saying that it would be “very bad” for the people on the other side of that implied violence from his supporters or whether he was saying that any kind of violent action is “very bad.” His record of statements, however, encouraging violence among his supporters — especially against the media — strongly suggests it was the former.
Trump’s political events frequently feature his harsh rhetoric against the media, and have included some examples of his supporters physically attacking journalists.
At one of his rallies last month, for instance, a MAGA hat-wearing supporter physically assaulted a BBC cameraman, shouting, “Fuck the media!” as he was restrained. Trump checked in with the cameraman from the podium to ask if he was okay, but said nothing to condemn the violence that had just taken place. Later in the speech, he continued to attack the media.
And back in October, Trump told a crowd of his supporters in Montana to stand by Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT), lauding him for physically assaulting Ben Jacobs of The Guardian during his campaign in 2017. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of — he’s my guy,” Trump said to applause, playfully mimicking what he thought the body slam might have looked like.
Trump’s attacks on the media have been incessant and unapologetic, in a pattern that The New York Times’ publisher has characterized as “dangerous” for reporters around the globe — arguing that Trump’s rhetoric risks emboldening dictators to crack down on the free press even further.
This fall, the White House tried to punish CNN correspondent Jim Acosta for persistently asking questions about Trump’s claims that the media is the “enemy of the people” by revoking his press credentials.
During his presidential campaign, Trump regularly encouraged his supporters to respond violently to protesters in the crowd. “Try not to hurt him,” he said of one protester at a rally. “If you do, I’ll defend you in court — don’t worry about it.”
The Bikers for Trump are known to patrol Trump’s rallies and get into scuffles with protesters, for which he has praised them.
Though the White House routinely claims that Trump only ever condemns violence, the evidence suggests otherwise.