A white man in Boston who allegedly assaulted a homeless Hispanic man cited Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump when police asked about the incident — and the candidate has responded to the report in a way some deem insensitive.
As the Boston Globe reported on Wednesday, brothers Scott and Steve Leader, two men with long criminal records from South Boston, were returning home from a Red Sox game when they a found a 58-year-old man — not named in reports — sleeping outside a subway station. In what Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Andrew Kettlewell called a “vicious and unprovoked” attack, police said the Leaders brutally attacked the man, breaking his nose and urinating on him.
“He was getting hit in the face and head,” a state police report read. “He remembers being punched several times and hit with the metal pole.”
Detained by police, the Leaders allegedly continued to act aggressively, insulting officers. Steve Leader also allegedly urinated on his cell door.
Asked what motivated the alleged attack, Scott Leader — who was convicted of a hate crime and jailed for a year in the assault of a Moroccan man shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks — name-checked the Republican front-runner.
“Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” Scott Leader, 38, allegedly told the police. The Leaders pleaded not guilty to multiple assault charges with a dangerous weapon, indecent exposure and making threats.
Trump was asked about the alleged assault at a news conference on Wednesday.
“I haven’t heard about that,” Trump said. “It would be a shame, but I haven’t heard about that.”
He then added: “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate. I will say that, and everybody here has reported it.”
Trump’s reply to a reporter’s question about the alleged assault begins at 8:25.
Trump’s reply was not received well in all corners. Sample headline, via Slate: “Suspect Cites Trump After Anti-Immigrant Assault, Trump Responds by Saying He Has Passionate Fans.”
“In other words, Trump, asked a question about an alleged hate crime committed by two of his followers, pivoted to praising the ‘passion’ of his followers,” Dara Lind of Vox wrote. “When people are committing hate crimes in your name, you do not call them “passionate.” You do not say they ‘want this country to be great again.’ You say they do not represent you or your beliefs.”
“Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess,” The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote, “and in the case of two intoxicated brothers that urinated on a homeless man and beat him with a pole simply because he’s Hispanic, the silver lining is that they are passionate about America.”
One immigrant advocate who spoke to the Globe said that rhetoric sometimes leads to violence.
“Every time that immigrants are being scapegoated or targeted, something happens,” Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, told the paper.