Donald Trump denied saying he would pay legal fees for a supporter who sucker-punched a black protester last week during a rally in North Carolina.
The Republican presidential candidate earlier this month told supporters in Michigan that he would “defend (them) in court” if they hurt protesters, and he said Sunday that he would consider paying defense costs for 78-year-old John McGraw — who was charged with disorderly conduct after he was caught on video punching a protester.
“I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it,” Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd.
Just two days later, Trump flatly denied saying anything like that in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” where host George Stephanopoulos asked whether he would send the message that he condones violence if he paid for McGraw’s legal defense.
“I don’t condone violence and I didn’t say I was going to pay for his fees,” Trump said Tuesday morning. “No, I didn’t say that. I haven’t looked at it yet, and nobody’s asked me to pay for fees and somebody asked me the question, and I haven’t even seen it. So I never said I was going to pay for fees, no.”
Stephanopoulos said he understood Trump had previously said only that he would look into paying for his supporter’s legal fees, and he asked again if his openness to assisting McGraw would essentially be rewarding violence.
“Well, maybe so, and maybe that’s why I wouldn’t do it — I don’t condone violence at all,” Trump said. “You know, I looked and I watched and I’m going to make a decision, but I certainly don’t condone violence and maybe you’re right, and maybe that’s why I wouldn’t do it.”
Stephanopoulos asked whether he would tone down his rhetoric in the face of criticism that he incites violence against protesters at his rallies.
“Well, I don’t think I should be toning it down because, you know, I’ve had the biggest rallies of anybody probably ever, in terms of primaries, and there’s not even a contest, and we’ve had very, very little difficulty,” Trump said. “We closed down one in Chicago. Other than that, we’ve had very, very little difficulty, if you look at when you have 25,000 or even 35,000 people at these rallies — we’ve had very, very little difficulties.”
The reversal is reminiscent of when Trump tried to have it both ways just two weeks ago when a former Ku Klux Klan leader threw his support behind the GOP frontrunner.
Trump refused to disavow white supremacist David Duke or the KKK in a Feb. 28 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, saying he would have to research the white supremacist groups before commenting on their support.
The following day, Trump blamed his wishy-washy reaction to a “very bad earpiece” that prevented him from understanding the question about Duke and the KKK.
White nationalists were caught on video March 1 roughing up black protesters at a Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky.
Watch the interview posted online by ABC News: