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Trump says he feared being pelted with ‘very dangerous’ fruit at rallies

Former president Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Delaware, Ohio, on April 23. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)
4 min

Former president Donald Trump said he feared protesters would hit him with tomatoes, pineapples and other “very dangerous” fruit at his campaign rallies, declaring in a sworn deposition that “you can be killed if that happens.”

Trump’s comments about the potentially lethal effects of projectile produce were made public Tuesday with the release of excerpts of 4½ hours of videotaped testimony in a lawsuit filed by a group of protesters who allege that Trump’s security guards assaulted them in 2015.

“I wanted to have people be ready because we were put on alert that they were going to do fruit,” Trump said in the October 2021 deposition, according to a transcript of the proceedings.

He added that “tomatoes are bad” and that “some fruit is a lot worse.”

“But it’s very dangerous. … I remember that specific event, because everybody was on alert. They were going to hit — they were going to hit hard,” he said.

News of the exchange was first reported Tuesday by the Daily Beast.

Trump was being questioned about his remarks at a February 2016 campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he encouraged members of the audience to “knock the crap” out of any protesters who might try to pelt him with tomatoes.

The incident was one of several in which Trump encouraged violence against his detractors, often framing such actions as justifiable in the name of “self-defense.”

“So I got a little notice, in case you’re seeing these security guys — we have wonderful security guys,” Trump said at the Iowa rally. “They said, ‘Mr. Trump, there may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience.’ So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay?”

Trump pledged that he would “pay for the legal fees” for anyone who followed his directions, adding, “They won’t be so much, because the courts agree with us, too.”

During the October deposition, Benjamin N. Dictor, an attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Trump whether any protesters were found to have had tomatoes in their possession during the Cedar Rapids rally. Trump replied that “it worked out that nothing happened.”

Dictor then asked Trump: “Is it your expectation that if your security guards see someone about to throw a tomato that they should knock the crap out of them?”

Trump replied in the affirmative, noting that he expected his security team to use physical force in such cases.

“Yeah, I think that they have to be aggressive in stopping that from happening,” Trump said. “Because if that happens, you can be killed if that happens. … To stop somebody from throwing pineapples, tomatoes, bananas, stuff like that, yeah, it’s dangerous stuff.”

The protesters filed their lawsuit in 2015, saying that Trump’s then-bodyguard Keith Schiller and other security guards had shoved them during a protest against Trump’s rhetoric about Latinos, The Washington Post previously reported. Schiller, who later became a White House official, has said he struck a protester only after the man grabbed him.

Trump was ordered to sit for a deposition in 2019, but his objections about presidential privilege delayed the questioning until late last year.

At one point in the questioning, Trump said his “knock the crap” statement was made “sort of in jest.” He then added, “But maybe, you know, a little truth to it.”

At another point, the lawyers took a few moments to discuss whether a tomato is a fruit.

“A tomato is a fruit after all, I guess,” Dictor said.

“And you know what —” Trump interjected.

“It has seeds,” Jeffrey Goldman, a lawyer for Trump, confirmed.

“It’s worse than tomato, it’s other things also,” Trump continued. “But tomato, when they start doing that stuff, it’s very dangerous. There was an alert out that day.”

Shayna Jacobs contributed to this report.