Donald Trump honed in on Hillary Clinton’s remark calling half of his supporters a “basket of deplorables” at a Monday rally in Asheville, North Carolina, where one of his backers appeared to get into a physical altercation with several protesters.
“While my opponent slams you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you hard-working American patriots who love your country,” Trump told the crowd.
His speech, in which he accused Clinton of running a “hate-filled campaign,” was interrupted repeatedly by demonstrators. At one point, a Trump fan in the upper rows of the U.S. Cellular Center arena appeared to get into a physical confrontation with one group of protesters. After what video captured by the Washington Post and ABC showed to be a charged verbal exchange, the rally attendee took a fighting stance and then pushed and hit two male protesters and slapped another female protester as they were escorted from the arena. Video shows at least 15 demonstrators, including a woman wearing a hijab, being removed from the building by security.
“Is there anywhere in America more fun to be than a Trump rally?” the GOP nominee asked shortly after the protesters were escorted out.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that another female protester was punched in the head by a Trump supporter outside the arena.
The incidents harkened back to the primaries, when violent scuffles were as much a hallmark of Trump’s campaign events as the call-and-response question of who would build a wall on the United States’ southern border (“Mexico!”). After a white man sucker-punched a black protester at one Fayetteville, North Carolina event, Trump said he was looking into paying the man’s legal fees.
Clinton has since walked back her “deplorables” comment about Trump’s supporters, saying she shouldn’t have put “half” of them in that category, but has insisted that his campaign has fostered xenophobia, sexism, and racism.
“Anybody xenophobic? I don’t think so,” said Trump at his rally in Asheville.
His fans seem to have embraced the slogan, and some wore shirts that said “I’m deplorable” or held signs reading “deplorable lives matter,” according to the Post.
This post has been updated.