Republican front-runner Donald Trump said Sunday that he has told his staff to "look into" paying legal fees for a man who allegedly sucker-punched a protester at a recent rally, standing behind his controversial promise to help defend supporters who stand up to protesters.
Videos surfaced last week showing a white, 78-year-old Trump supporter apparently striking a black 26-year-old protester at a March 9 rally. The elderly man has been charged with assault and disorderly conduct and is due in court next month.
Trump had promised his supporters that he would pay the legal fees of those who fight back against protesters, saying at a February rally: "If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I will pay for their legal fees." Those attributing increased violence at Trump's rallies to his rhetoric point to this comment as an example of the Republican front-runner encouraging — even condoning — violence.
When asked Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether he might pay for the elderly man's legal fees if needed, Trump said: "I've actually instructed my people to look into it, yes."
Trump said he wants more details about the incident and wants to view the full tape, noting that footage showed the younger man extending a middle finger to the audience before being punched in the face. That was a "terrible thing to do in front of somebody that, frankly, wants to see America made great again," he said. The elderly man "got carried away, he was 78 years old, he obviously loves his country, and maybe he doesn't like seeing what's happening to the country," Trump said.
"I'm going to see, you know, what was behind this because it was a strange event," the Republican front-runner said. "But from what I heard, there was a lot of taunting and a certain finger was placed in the air. Not nice. Again, I don't condone the violence. I don't condone what he did. But you know what, not nice for the other side, either."