ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Donald Trump sought to keep the focus squarely on Hillary Clinton's comment that half of his supporters are a "basket of deplorables" here Monday evening, charging his Democratic rival with running a "hate-filled campaign" with "no policy, no solutions and no new ideas."
Trump spoke at an arena here where the atmosphere grew tense as protesters repeatedly interrupted his speech. Some of them made obscene gestures as they were removed from the premises. At one point, a man took a fighting stance and then pushed and grabbed male protesters and swatted at a female protester. The protesters appeared to be in an antagonistic verbal exchange with the man.
ABC News captured video of the incident, which took place in the upper rows of the arena.
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"While my opponent slams you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you hard-working American patriots who love your country," Trump told his supporters during the speech.
While Trump has lobbed charges against Clinton, he has faced criticism throughout his campaign from Democrats and many Republicans that his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric is dividing the country along racial and religions lines and unjustly attacking people on the basis of their faith and ethnicity.
Throughout the day, Trump tried to direct attention to the comments Clinton made at her Friday fundraiser. Here in Asheville, he brought a group of supporters up on stage to serve as examples of why Clinton's criticism was out of bounds.
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables.’ Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it," Clinton said Friday.
Clinton said in a statement the next day that she regretted using the word “half” to describe the Trump supporters.
"Anybody xenophobic? I don't think so," said Trump at his rally.