- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2016

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump defended his campaign rallies Sunday, arguing that there have been “zero” injuries and that he in no way incites his supporters to violence.

“I think in many cases I do lower the temperature,” Mr. Trump said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He said that he does not spur his supporters to violence against protesters, arguing that despite “rallies of 25,000, 30,000 people, we haven’t even said anything about danger in our rallies.”

“Other than for the other day with Chicago and the one man who rushed the stage, with thousands of people … in Alabama, how many people have been injured at my rallies?” Mr. Trump said. “Zero. Zero.”

Mr. Trump bashed CNN host Jake Tapper and fellow anchor John King for “unfair” media coverage of his rallies.

The flamboyant businessman’s rallies have of late been scrutinized for incidents of violence, including two in the last week. On Tuesday, campaign spokesman Corey Lewandowski allegedly assaulted Breitbart news reporter Michelle Fields. On Friday, Mr. Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago when supporters and demonstrators got into fights and protests in the streets.

In early February, Mr. Trump told an audience that there were protesters with tomatoes in the audience and encouraged them to “knock the hell” out of them.

“So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ‘em, would you?” He said. “Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”

Later that month, he said of a protester being escorted out of a rally, “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.”

But Mr. Trump on Sunday said that violence has been blown out of proportion, a lot of it at the hands of his nominee rivals who are trying to halt his meteoric rise.

“They are losing big league,” he said. “If Florida, we have a man, Marco Rubio, who doesn’t even show up to vote in the U.S. Senate. I don’t think he could be elected dog catcher in Florida.”

He also pointed to Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders’ supporters in the Democratic nomination contest as a cause of the violence and threatened to return the favor, tweeting Sunday morning: “Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren’t told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!”

• Anjali Shastry can be reached at ashastry@washingtontimes.com.

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