NEW YORK — After his rallies in Arizona this weekend were marked by protests and violence, Donald Trump on Sunday complained of a “double standard” in coverage and defended his campaign manager after video showed the manager grabbing a demonstrator by the collar and yanking him during a rally in Tucson.
The Saturday rally included one of the most violent confrontations yet at a Trump appearance. A protester escorted out of the arena by the police was sucker-punched, knocked to the ground, and repeatedly pounded and kicked by a Trump supporter.
Asked about the incident on ABC’s “This Week,” Trump allowed that the beating was “a tough thing to watch,” but he refused to condemn it. He offered harsher words for the victim, saying he had been accompanied by another protester provocatively wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume.
“At what point do people blame the protesters?” he said, calling them “professional agitators.”
Trump has held a series of rallies focused largely on illegal immigration in the border state of Arizona.
Republicans and Democrats will hold primaries in Arizona and caucuses in Utah on Tuesday. Democrats also will caucus in Idaho on Tuesday.
In an effort to try to improve his relations with some segments of his party, Trump plans to hold a closed-door meeting Monday in Washington with about 20 influential Republicans. Several members of Congress are expected to take part in the meeting, Trump’s first major conference with lawmakers and key Republican figures since last fall.
Trump also was questioned about a video showing his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, accosting a demonstrator in Tucson. Lewandowski was seen grabbing the protester by his collar and, along with someone who appeared to be a plainclothes security guard, yanking him backward.
According to CBS News, the protester was part of a group of people who had stood behind Trump and jeered him as he spoke.
“I give him credit for having spirit,” Trump said of Lewandowski, adding that the protesters had been holding “horrible, profanity-laden signs” in the background as television cameras recorded his speech.
But party leaders, including US Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, suggested Sunday that Trump should do more to calm his crowds.