During a press conference in Florida Saturday morning, Marco Rubio strongly condemned the violent rhetoric coming from GOP front-runner Donald Trump, accusing him of manipulating the anger of the American people for votes. The somber and subdued Florida senator called the unrest at Trump’s rallies “a frightening, grotesque and disturbing development in American politics.”
“This is a man who in rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people in the crowd, and he’ll pay their legal fees — someone who has encouraged people in his audience to rough up anyone who stands up and says something he doesn’t like,” Rubio charged.
He also chastised the media, which he said bears some of the responsibility. “For too long, those comments were ignored, some people thought they were cute, and he’s gotten an extraordinary amount of coverage for all the stuff he says that’s outrageous.” That “wall-to-wall coverage has elevated” Trump, Rubio argued. He continued:
The broader anger that now exists in American discourse is a direct result of the fact that words have consequences. That when you run for president of the United States, or if you are president of the United States, you can’t take on the attitude that “I’m just going to say whatever I want!” You can’t say whatever you want! It has real life consequences for people in this country and all over the world. And we’re starting to see that bear out. We saw those images of people getting in their face – often divided among racial lines….police officers bleeding from the head — reminiscent of images from the ’60s. I mean, we’re going backwards, here. This is a frightening, grotesque and disturbing development in American politics.
A Donald Trump supporter sucker-punched a man the other day at an event. Donald Trump has yet to condemn it. After the man was released from jail, he said, “next time I’ll kill him.” He still has not condemned it. So it tells you, in many ways, he doesn’t want to say anything to his supporters because he doesn’t want to turn them off. Because he understands that the reason they are voting for him is because they have tapped into this anger. The problem is, leadership is not taking people’s anger, and using it to get them to vote for you. If it is – it’s a dangerous style of leadership. Leadership is about acknowledging people’s anger, but as a leader, trying to address why they are angry, instead of manipulating their anger so that they become your voter, your donor, your supporter.
Rubio wanted to be clear that he understood that the protesters in Chicago were not blameless. “These people — many of them were just there to be agitators. They were there just to create a ruckus. Okay? I know the type,” he noted. “Others were there [as] part of interest groups. Chicago is a city that is teeming with paid protesters and you don’t have a right to say, ‘I don’t like what someone’s doing, so let’s go blow up his event.’ You see this on college campuses. The left bears some responsibility, as well. But I’m telling you that this boiling point that we have now reached has been fed largely by the fact that we have a front-runner in my party who has fed into language that basically justifies physically assaulting people who disagree with you.”
“I’m upset at what this is doing to our country,” Rubio lamented. “We are being ripped apart at the seams, now.” He said the divisions that are appearing along class and racial lines “are disturbing” and that he is “sad for this country.”
Asked if he thought the people protesting the Chicago rally were “thugs” as Trump maintains, Rubio answered that “some of them probably are. Sure.” He added, “But it wasn’t just one incident. If this was just one time that it happened, you would say this is just about Chicago. It’s about a bunch of thugs who showed up and decided to disrupt an event. But it’s not just about Chicago. It happened in St. Louis, it happened earlier this week [in Fayetteville, Arkansas]. Allegedly his campaign manager has roughed up a reporter.”
Asked if he would be able to support Trump should he end up being the nominee, Rubio hesitated to answer. “I don’t know,” he finally said. “I’ve already talked about the fact that Hillary Clinton would be terrible for this country, but the fact that you’re even asking me that question — I still at this moment intend to support the Republican nominee — but it’s getting harder every day.”