A protester was punched at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in North Carolina as the Republican presidential candidate decried his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for dismissing his supporters as "deplorables."

"Never in history has a major party presidential candidate so viciously demonized the American voter," Trump told the crowd in Asheville, North Carolina on Monday night just before an anti-Trump protest broke out.

An apparent Trump supporter grabbed a male protester's neck then clenched his fist and punched him, video from NBC and ABC showed. The protesters were then escorted out.

Asheville's Citizen-Times newspaper said four people were arrested at the rally. The Buncombe County clerk's office confirmed the names of three arrested adults in the article but could not confirm the location of the arrests.

Trump was referring to a comment last week by Clinton who

said half of the New York businessman's supporters were a "basket of deplorables," a comment she later said she regretted.

On Tuesday, Trump again hammered Clinton over the remark in a post on Facebook: "What a disgraceful thing to say about fellow- hard working Americans! Vote Trump on November 8th -- keep Hillary's HATE away from Washington, D.C."

Trump himself has come under fire for rhetoric against minorities during his campaign for the Nov. 8 election, including describing Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists, suggesting a judge could not be fair because of his Mexican-American heritage, and proposing a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the United States.

Scuffles between supporters and protesters have broken out a number of times at Trump rallies.

(Reporting by Eric Walsh; Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Alistair Bell)