- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2016

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said Monday that his campaign rallies are “lovefests,” pushing back against critics who blame his heated rhetoric for inflaming clashes between his supporters and protesters.

He made the remark after a pair of protesters disrupted a campaign event in North Carolina, with one of them standing on a chair and unfurling a banner that read: “Turn away from hate.”

Such demonstrations have become routine at Trump events.

“Because of that, people say, ‘Well, is there violence?’ There is no violence. There’s a lovefest. These are lovefests,” Mr. Trump said after the protesters were led out.

Mr. Trump, who was seated on stage beside supporter New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the event, remained quiet as security officials removed the protesters. It was a more measured response from Mr. Trump, who in the past often urged the ejection of protesters by demanding, “Get ‘em out.”

He has come under fire and has been accused of inspiring violence after an elderly Trump supporter sucker punched a young black man protesting at a rally Wednesday in Fayetteville, North Carolina, followed by Mr. Trump canceling a rally Friday in Chicago amid protests by students and liberal activists.

The billionaire businessman and realty TV star said the news media was smearing him.

“They’re saying, ‘Oh, but there is such violence.’ There is no violence. Do you know how many people have been hurt? I think like basically none, other than I guess maybe somebody got hit once. But there is no violence,” he said. “You know, in Chicago, we canceled because I didn’t want to see it.”

Mr. Trump also has said Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders’ supporters are responsible for the protests because several demonstrators have carried Sanders campaign signs.

“They’ll have a Bernie sign,” Mr. Trump told the crowd. “And Bernie is going nowhere. You know that.”

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