President Donald Trump said he doesn’t want his supporters to engage or confront Black Lives Matter protesters, saying that law enforcement officers should deal with them.
“No. No, I don’t want them. I want to leave it to law enforcement,” the president said in a Monday night interview on Fox News.
“But my supporters are wonderful, hard-working, tremendous people. And they turn on their television set, and they look at a Portland, or they look at a Kenosha, before I got involved and stopped it, or they look at Chicago, where 78 people were shot last weekend and numerous people died, or they look at New York, where violence is up by like, what? 150 percent. … They’re looking at all of this, and they can’t believe it,” Trump said.
Trump was seemingly referring to riots and protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and in Portland, Oregon. Earlier in the day, the president commented on 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, saying he probably would have been killed by the protestors. Meanwhile, the pro-Trump Patriot Prayer organization confirmed that one of its supporters was shot and killed in Portland.
“That was an interesting situation. He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looked like,” and he fell, and then they very violently attacked him,” Trump said at a White House press conference in reference to the Rittenhouse scenario. “He was in very big trouble,” the president remarked. “He probably would have been killed.”
Over the summer in the wake of unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd, Trump has frequently said he is the “law and order” candidate and has offered to send in federal agents to hotspot areas like Portland, only to be denied. The president has argued that he is the candidate who will keep Americans safe in the midst of rising crime and demonstrations.
Trump is slated to travel to Kenosha on Tuesday to survey damage caused during the riots and protests.
Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, who deployed the National Guard in the wake of the unrest, alleged that Trump would create further tensions by visiting the city.
“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing,” Evers wrote in a letter to Trump. “I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
In a statement after Trump’s news conference but before his Fox interview, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said: “Tonight, the president declined to rebuke violence. He wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it.”