Who, me? Trump retracts claim he’d pay legal fees for man who sucker-punched protester

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump. © Chris Keane
Two days after saying he told his team to look into paying the legal fees of a supporter who sucker-punched a protester at one of his rallies, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump argued he never said he would pay the fees.

Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America, Trump was asked by George Stephanopoulos whether paying the legal fees for the protester would constitute supporting violence.

“I don’t condone violence,” Trump said. “I didn’t say I would pay for his fees.”

“Nobody has asked me for fees and I haven’t even seen it, so I never said I was going to pay for fees,” he added.

The issue stems from an incident that took place last Wednesday in North Carolina, when 78-year-old John McGraw was caught on camera punching protester Rakeem Jones, 26. Mr Jones was being escorted out of a Trump rally by security. Following the rally, McGraw said Jones “deserved it.”

“The next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” he added.

READ MORE: ‘Next time we see him, we might have to kill him’: Trump fan on punching black protester (VIDEOS)

McGraw was later arrested by police, who charged him with assault and disorderly conduct.

Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t condone violence, but has also defended supporters who lash out physically, often arguing that they were provoked or that they’re angry about the direction of their country.

When asked by NBC whether he would pay McGraw’s legal fees, Trump said: “I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.”

Trump then went on CBS and said he would “review” the video and make a decision on whether to pay the fees.

During his latest interview with ABC, Trump seemed to both acknowledge that paying such fees would reward violence and maintain that he has not yet decided what action he’ll take.

“You said you were looking into it. If you’re open to that, by paying those fees, wouldn’t that be rewarding violence?” asked Stephanopoulos.

“Well, maybe so and maybe that’s why I wouldn’t do it,” Trump responded. “I don’t condone violence at all and, you know, I looked and I watched and I’m going to make a decision, but I certainly don’t condone violence and maybe you’re right and maybe that’s why I wouldn’t do it.”

The assault at the North Carolina rally is just one of multiple instances of violence at Trump’s rallies, causing candidates from both sides of the aisle to criticize him for creating an atmosphere that tolerates violence. Earlier this year at a rally in Iowa, Trump called on his supporters to “knock the crap” out of anyone who may be thinking of throwing a tomato at him. He also promised to pay for the legal fees.

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell ‒ I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees,” he said. “I promise, I promise. It won’t be so much ’cause the courts agree with us too.”

On Monday, Trump said there’s been no violence at his rallies and that no one has been hurt.

“If one person gets up and starts shouting and the police walk that person out, they try and make it like it’s a violent thing. It is not violent. It’s a protester that stands up or probably a disruptor, because I think they’re sent there by people on the other side,” Trump told CNN on Monday.

“But there’s no violence, nobody’s been hurt.”