Angry protesters, and consequently, occasional interruptions and disruptions, are faced by virtually every presidential candidate in some measure or another, simply due to the fact that, as the old adage goes, “you can’t please everyone.” Whereas most presidential candidates in the 2016 election have taken such instances in stride, it seems that some of the more recent media attention given to presidential candidate Donald Trump has to do with his highly questionable responses to instances of, and simple threats of, angry protestors appearing at his rallies.
These questionable responses include him briefly attending to the possibility of covering the legal fees of John McGraw, a man who is now being charged with assault after multiple videos depict him sucker punching a protester in the face as security guards lead him out. The Cumberland County Sherriff’s Office later indicated that they planned to add communicating threats to McGraw’s charges since McGraw is purported to have responded to the incident by stating, “[t]he next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Interestingly, it took until Tuesday, March 15 for Trump to indicate that he did not plan to cover the legal fees of McGraw, all while significant controversy continues to surround his dismissal of the violence that erupted at a Trump rally in Chicago, which had to be cancelled due to security concerns. His remarks in Tuesday’s telephone interview with ABC’s ‘‘Good Morning America,’’ however, were not especially informative, and were not sufficient to indicate that he had not at least considered covering the legal expenses of a man being charged with what Sheriff Earl Butler dubbed “a cowardly, unprovoked act.”
“I haven’t looked at it yet and nobody’s asked me to pay for fees,” Trump stated. “I never said I was going to pay for fees… I don’t condone violence.”
However, Trump’s own words on ABC’s “Good Morning America” contrast sharply with statements he stubbornly stuck by only days (or even hours) before. Trump has repeatedly been accused of inciting violence by way of offering to cover the legal expenses of those who forcibly remove protesters from his rallies, including an instance in which Trump, at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap out of” anyone who looked like they were about to throw tomatoes at him.
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?” Trump said. “Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise. They won’t be so much, because the courts agree with us too — what’s going on in this country.”
Trump has also made extremely questionable references to “the good old days” in which protesters would have been carried out “on a stretcher.” All of this, of course, is included with the fact that he did, in fact, express interest in covering the legal fees of McGraw, saying to Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” “I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.”
Clearly, Trump’s self-defense on “Good Morning America” conflicts heavily with Trump’s own words and rhetoric. While it is not clear that Trump completely intends for the sort of violence that occasionally develops at his rallies to occur, it should nonetheless be noted that a candidate is, indeed, largely responsible for the sort of support that he/she attracts. Moreover, it simply should never occur that a candidate for the highest office in the United States should even consider invalidating laws that protect individuals from assault, by way of covering the legal fees that are levied on transgressors. To do so,
ultimately, is to flagrantly defy and desecrate the idea that laws against violence are binding and sacred, and instead makes them appear to be simply conditional. Such rhetoric serves as an open invitation for individuals with violent or prejudicial tendencies to break needful laws ultimately without consequence, and it therefore has a rightful place neither in our society nor in the White House. Trump, it seems, has some serious damage control ahead of him.
-Austin Wash ’16, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor