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White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders raised eyebrows after she claimed during Thursday’s press briefing that President Donald Trump has never “encouraged violence.”
Sanders made the comments while addressing a question about Trump’s vicious Thursday-morning tweet aimed at MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, who he said was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a trip to the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
The tweet was met with widespread condemnation on both the left and right, with a number of Republican members of Congress pointing to the recent shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise as a reason why such harsh rhetoric in American politics needs to be toned down.
“Some have suggested in their tweet, response, or public response that the president misconstrued one of the messages that should’ve been gathered from the shooting that involved Steve Scalise and others, that the hostility of the verbal environment can create an atmosphere of violence,” CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett said in prefacing his question, acknowledging that the shooting “affected” the White House. “Do you have any reaction to that sentiment?”
Sanders responded by saying Trump “in no way, form or fashion has ever encouraged violence, quite the contrary.”
“He was simply pushing back in terms of defending himself,” she added, having pointed to comments made by Brzezinski and co-host Joe Scarborough on the duo’s “Morning Joe” program.
But many were quick to note that Sanders’ comment was not exactly true.
Along the campaign trail, Trump seemed to encourage violence on a number of occassions when discussing protesters at his boisterous rallies.
In February of last year, Trump said he wished he could “punch” a protester “in the face” at a Las Vegas rally. The then-Republican presidential candidate also expressed a desire for a return to “the old days” when “they’d be carried out on a stretcher.”
“Oh, I love the old days, you know?” Trump said. “You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old 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.”
The crowd loudly cheered.
“You know, I love our police, and I really respect our police, and they’re not getting enough,” he continued. “They’re not. Honestly, I hate to see that. Here’s a guy, throwing punches, nasty as hell, screaming at everything else when we’re talking, and he’s walking out, and we’re not allowed – you know, the guards are very gentle with him, he’s walking out, like, big high fives, smiling, laughing – I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”
After a protester was roughhoused by attendees at an Alabama rally in November 2015, Trump said the protester “maybe” should’ve “been roughed up” because “it was an absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
At a February 2016 rally in Iowa, Trump told supporters that “if you see someone getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?”
“Seriously,” he continued. “Okay, just knock the hell … I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”
At a March 2016 rally in Michigan, Trump said those escorting a protester out of the rally should “try not to hurt him” although, if they did, “I’ll defend you in court.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said.
And at a St. Louis rally last March, Trump explained that “part of the problem” and “part of the reason” it takes authorities so long to remove protesters from his rallies is because “nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?”
When asked about a number of violent episodes that took place at his rallies, Trump said he “certainly” did not “incite violence” and said that he doesn’t “condone violence.”