Donald Trump addressed the growing number of violent supporters at his rallies during the GOP debate in Miami.
During the debate, Trump was asked by moderator Jake Tapper if the tone of his rallies encouraged the behavior that has been increasingly present when supporters confront protesters.
"I hope not, I truly hope not," Trump responded. "We have 25,000 or 35,000 people who come with tremendous passion and love for this country … and they have anger that’s unbelievable. They love this country and they don’t like seeing bad trade deals, higher taxes, they don’t like seeing their jobs devastated. I see it. There’s anger, there’s also great love for their country. But I certainly do not condone that at all.”
Tapper noted that at some of his rallies, Trump has expressed the desire to punch protesters in the face as well as encouraging a protester to be "ripped from their seat." He also said he'd pay for the legal fees of any supporter who physically confronts a protester.
"We have some protesters who are bad dudes," Trump said, The Hill reported. "They have done bad things and they are really dangerous and get in there and start hitting people, and we had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people. … It’s usually the police, the municipal government because I don’t have guards all over these stadiums. I mean, we fill up stadiums."
Only Ted Cruz criticized Trump for the violent behavior at his rallies, taking a mild swipe by saying Trump asked his supporters to pledge their support for him.
"Now I have to say I think that’s exactly backwards," Cruz said during the debate. "This is a job interview, we’re here pledging our support to you, not the other way around."
Trump fired back at Cruz, saying that his rallies are generally lighthearted and fun.
"Everyone is laughing, we’re all having a good time and that’s why I have much larger crowds than Ted, because we’re having a good time," he said.
A Trump supporter was charged with assault after punching a protester at a Fayetteville, North Carolina, rally. The incident was caught on video, which went viral soon after the confrontation occurred.
"Boom, he caught me," protester Rakeem Jones told the Washington Post. "After I get it, before I could even gain my thoughts, I’m on the ground getting escorted out. Now I’m waking up this morning looking at the news and seeing me getting hit again.”