Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump defended his supporters’ right to “hit back” at campaign event protesters in a Friday press conference where he received Ben Carson’s endorsement.
Trump’s remarks came the day after John McGraw, 78, was criminally charged for allegedly sucker-punching a black protester at a Trump rally in North Carolina Wednesday evening.
Asked if he’s “playing a character” when he says things like “I want to punch a protester in the face,” Trump responded there have been “some violent people” protesting his rallies.
“These are people that punch. People that are violent people,” Trump said. “The particular one where I said ‘I’d like to bang him,’ that was a very vicious – a guy who was swinging, very loud, and then started swinging at the audience.”
He continued: “You know what? The audience swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate. He was swinging. He was hitting people. And the audience hit back. And that’s what we need a little bit more of.”
The real estate mogul went on to say the police were “very, very restrained” in dealing with the incident.
Trump seemed to be referencing an incident at a rally in Las Vegas late last month, when he remarked “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya” as a protester was being removed.
“You know what I hate? There’s a guy totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the ol’ days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks,” he told the crowd.
The Republican also called the protester “nasty as hell,” but CNN reported the man did not appear to be fighting the security officers escorting him out of the venue.