Republican frontrunner Donald Trump appeared on The O’Reilly Factor Wednesday night to discuss the increasing frequency of protesters at his rallies and a possible shift in rhetoric as the mogul begins to think toward the general election.
Host Bill O’Reilly opened the interview by asking Trump if he felt a need to “tone down [his] confrontational style” and be “more statesmanlike” as it looks more likely that he will become the Republican nominee.
“I always like to be a gentleman,” Trump said. “[The race] started off with 17 people — all smart, all tough, all cunning — and it’s now down to three and we’re getting down to the wire and I’m leading by a substantial margin.”
Trump’s rallies in recent weeks have been punctuated by clashes between protesters and his supporters, with the candidate canceling a rally in Chicago last week over safety concerns. The candidate has been criticized for seemingly provoking and inflaming the crowd with calls to inflict violence on anyone who appears to be protesting.
“Anybody who tells you that there is no connection between the behavior of the mob at these events and the behavior of the man at the podium leading the mob at these events is not actually watching he’s been saying from the podium,” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said last week. “What he has been saying, and the way he has been egging it on, it has been escalating.”
O’Reilly addressed Trump’s rhetoric in the interview, asking if the candidate needed to show more restraint when provoked. “I think so and I think I’ve been restrained. We’ve had very little problems,” Trump said. “We have some very big events scheduled. When people go in there and they interrupt and they stand up and in many cases they start things like raising their fists and maybe hitting people, I’m not going to want to stand for that and the people in the room won’t stand for that. But the answer is yes, I would absolutely be able to stand above it.”
Last week, 78-year-old John McGraw was charged with assault and disorderly conduct after sucker-punching 26-year-old protestor Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American,” McGraw said on video after the incident. “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” Trump had originally said he would pay the legal fees for McGraw following his arrest, but later retracted the offer.
“It’s a tightrope you have to walk, but let your security do it,” O’Reilly told the candidate Wednesday night. “Be the peacemaker.”Watch late-night hosts call out Donald Trump’s supporters.