A feisty Donald Trump look shots at his fellow Republicans, Fox News, the Club for Growth and even Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli during a Q&A session in South Carolina on Wednesday.
Trump addressed reporters amid buzz that his campaign is faltering, ahead of a town hall in Columbia, South Carolina. He appeared alongside Republican Sen. Tim Scott, of whom Trump claimed to one of the first supporters. A bemused Scott said “whether you agree or disagree [with Trump] one thing you walk away with is that he is authentic.”
The 2016 front-runner rejected chatter that his rivals for the Republican nomination pose any sort of threat to him in the polls. “Everyone who has opposed me has gone down,” Trump said, referencing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who departed the race earlier this month), South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Trump ridiculed Paul in particular, recounting a story about Paul reaching out to play golf with him prior to this election cycle. “He could not have been nicer but then all of a sudden a week ago he went rogue,” Trump said, adding that he thinks Paul “should really get out” of the race.
“The people of Kentucky are being taken advantage of by Rand Paul because you should either run for the Senate or you should run for president,” Trump said, in a reference to the fact that Paul is also up for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2016.
When asked about Carly Fiorina’s recent surge in many polls, Trump was dismissive. “She seems very nice and she’s starting to do a little better but she’s not even close to us in the polls,” the candidate said, after taking shots at her tenure as CEO at Hewlett-Packard and Lucent.
Trump only had good things to say about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been the warmest of the GOP candidates to Trump so far on the campaign trail. “I like him because everything I do he likes.”
Trump grew heated when asked about Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli’s controversial decision to raise the price of the medication Daraprim, which is used to treat a parasitic infection, by more than 5000%.
“He looks like a spoiled brat to me,” Trump said of Shkreli. “He sat back smug like he was hot stuff, that guy was nothing.”
Trump went on to call Shkreli’s actions “disgusting” and a “disgrace,” and pointed out that the Turing CEO is a “hedge fund guy,” a group the GOPer has pledged to raise taxes on.
The real estate mogul also continued his public feuds with the conservative organization Club for Growth (Trump called them a “phony outfit” that is “only for the growth of their wallets”) and Fox News, which he accused of refusing to air presidential polls that were favorable to him.
The cable news network and Trump have been engaged in high-volume war of words for the last two days, with the candidate claiming he will boycott Fox shows, and the channel pushing back that the ex-reality TV star doesn’t know “how the media works in this country.”
During his press conference Wednesday, Trump admitted that voters may eventually “fall un-in-love” with him, but insisted he was “not concerned” about his challengers or status in the race. He said he was starting to free up more of his schedule, delegating his business dealings to his executives and children.
As usual, he hyped his place at the top of the polls, asking rhetorically at one point, “Who’s in first place?”
In the town hall Q&A later on Wednesday, Trump sounded many familiar notes on immigration, foreign policy, the economy and his “great relationships” with African-Americans and Latinos. He said his campaign would roll out his tax plan next week and promised that It would be “very long on policy” and includes a “major reduction in taxes for the middle class.”
However, on national defense, Trump refused to give details and mocked politicians who do. “You don’t want to be too specific,” Trump said, who diminished the Obama administration’s drone strikes as having accomplished little other than taking out a “mid-level accounting person from ISIS.”
Trump also took a shot at Secretary of State John Kerry, “He’s 73 years old, he’s in a bicycle race and he falls off,” he said to laughter from a friendly crowd. “If I’m president I can promise you I’ll never be in a bicycle race. You know why? Because I’ll be working.”
However, the candidate received his wildest applause when he bragged about being “self-funded” and railed against his GOP rivals’ super PACs. “The PACs are controlling the politicians, I think it’s terrible,” Trump said.
Later, Trump did concede that he does accept small donations because it would be “almost insulting” to return them.