These 6 Republicans regularly linked Trump to violent extremism — before he was elected president
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) is greeted on stage by fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz before speaking at a rally against the Iran nuclear deal in Washington, DC on September 9, 2015 (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Though they may be in his corner now, many prominent Republicans condemned Donald Trump for his potential to inspire violent extremism before he won the presidency.


In a Twitter thread, NBC News' Benjy Sarlin pointed out that many of those same Republicans appear to have changed their tunes since Trump became the GOP presidential nominee.

1. Marco Rubio

Sarlin noted that although Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently derided those who blame Trump for the pipe bombs, synagogue shooting and other acts of terrorism carried out by fans of the president, he spoke very differently about him in the past.

"We are going to need to work with Muslims to defeat radicalization, both at home and abroad," Rubio said during a GOP presidential candidate debate on March 11, 2016. "And that's why I know people like that Donald Trump says whatever he wants and what they feel like saying. Presidents cannot say anything they want. Presidents have to understand that their words have consequences, often life-and-death consequences for real people in the real world."

2. Ted Cruz

The NBC reporter tweeted that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — who recently had the president stump for him during a campaign rally in Texas — was somewhat more equivocating in March 2016 after then-candidate Trump canceled a Chicago rally due to confrontations between his supporters and counterprotesters.

"In any campaign, responsibility starts at the top,” Cruz said of Trump. “And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have a campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse."

3. Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts governor and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney "is rare in that he made a direct connection between Trump, hate groups, and violence during the campaign AND when Trump was president," Sarlin tweeted.

In a famous speech from March 2016 after alleged neo-Nazi protesters roughed up a black counterprotester at a Kentucky Trump rally, Romney described the ways the candidate "is directing our anger for less than noble purposes."

"He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants," Romney said. "He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press."

The reporter noted that the former Massachusetts' governor was equally fiery in his condemnation of Trump's rhetoric after the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville in 2017 as well.

4. Lindsey Graham



In a May 2016 interview with CBS, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the president's current closest allies, warned that then-candidate Trump's "nationalism will lead to another 9/11" and a potential civil war.

5. Rick Perry

In a 2015 speech ahead of the first GOP presidential debate, now-Energy Secretary Rick Perry denounced Trump as a "cancer on conservatism."

In a rebuke of "Trumpism," the former Texas governor said the president "scapegoats Hispanics to appeal to our worst instincts" and also suggested he is a "false prophet."

6. Erick Erickson

Sarlin noted that in an October 2016 New York Times op-ed, conservative pundit Erick Erickson wrote that "when the Russians go home, the pastors repent and riot police disperse white nationalist protests, the Republicans will need fresh ideas" — and reiterated that claim after Charlottesville.