This post has been updated.
Donald Trump was quickly rushed off-stage by Secret Service at a campaign rally in Reno, Nev., on Saturday night as a scuffle erupted in the crowd directly in front of the stage and a man was led away. It wasn’t immediately clear exactly what had happened.
But amid the chaos, some top Trump surrogates seemed sure. Within minutes, two of them — Donald Trump Jr., and top social media aide Dan Scavino — passed along later-disproven claims that the GOP nominee had just survived an “assassination attempt.” And on stage at Trump's next rally in Denver, Father Andre Mahanna said Trump had survived "an attempt of murder."
Even as late as Sunday morning, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was playing up the idea that this was a "Democratic plant" trying to disrupt Trump's rally. And she excused Trump Jr.'s and Scavino's passing along of rumors.
Trump Jr. and Scavino both retweeted the same claim that this had been an assassination attempt.
Trump Jr. also passed along a claim that the person who caused the disturbance had a gun.
And he retweeted a suggestion, shortly after the incident, that Democrats were to blame for violence at Trump rallies.
None of these things appear to be true, based upon the evidence at hand.
Someone on the scene had shouted that there was a gun. But there wasn’t, as the Secret Service soon confirmed.
In fact, it quickly began to seem there hadn't been any apparent threat to Trump at all.
After the rally, multiple reporters interviewed the man who had been led away, Austin Crytes. He was not a Democrat, but rather a Republican who opposed Trump and supported Clinton.
Even 12 hours later, on Sunday morning, the campaign was playing up the idea that the man was sent by Democrats.
"He had canvassed for Hillary Clinton, and he had donated to her campaign," Conway said on CNN's "State of the Union." "So, this is a Democratic plant or operative trying to disrupt our rally. And I think that people saw a nimble, resilient Donald Trump, who would be nimble and resilient as president as well, take back to the stage, Dan Scavino telling people, we're not going to be stopped. Nobody can interrupt this movement."
Conway added: "If you're Don Jr., and you're on a live TV set while you're watching this unfold, it's pretty rattling to think of what may have happened to your father. So, I will excuse him that."
Trump Sr. was the subject of a previous assassination plot that never even got close to succeeding. As Callum Borchers reported back in June:
The No. 1 trending question related to Donald Trump on Google right now is “Who tried to shoot Trump?” Which means a lot of people don’t know the answer. Which is probably because the assassination attempt on the presumptive Republican presidential nominee hasn’t been covered as a major news story.
The answer, authorities say, is Michael Steven Sandford, a 20-year-old British citizen who was in the United States illegally after overstaying his visa. Sandford allegedly tried to pull a gun from the holster of a police officer at a Trump rally in Las Vegas on Saturday. He was arrested and later told the Secret Service that he had driven to the event from California and had been planning to kill the candidate for a year, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Nevada.
Saturday night wasn't the first time the Trump team quickly embraced a theory about a rally disruption that just as quickly fell apart. This spring, Trump claimed his staff had linked a man who tried to rush the stage at one of his events to the Islamic State: "They found his name, and it was probably ISIS or ISIS-related. Do you believe it?" he said at a later campaign event. He also made the claim on Twitter.
The Trump team may have linked protester Thomas Dimassimo to ISIS -- but no actual evidence did: the video Trump pointed to when making the claim on Twitter turned out to have been doctored, reported ABC News. The Ohio college student was later sentenced to a year of probation.