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White House falsely claims Trump has never 'encouraged violence'

The White House said Donald Trump has never "promoted or encouraged violence." I wish that were true. It's not.
President Trump addresses rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29, 2017. Screenshot from NBCNews.
President Trump addresses rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29, 2017. Screenshot from NBCNews.

In light of Donald Trump's controversial tweets yesterday, there was an interesting exchange at the press briefing between CBS News' Major Garrett and Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

GARRETT: Some have suggested in their tweet response or public announcements today that the President misconstrued one of the messages that should have been gathered from the shooting that involved Steve Scalise and others, the hostility of the verbal environment can create an atmosphere of violence. I'm not saying that, but members of Congress have said that about this particular tweet. I know that episode affected the President and those here at the White House personally, very importantly and deeply. Do you have any reaction to that sentiment, that conversations like this create an atmosphere that is either dangerous or one we need to avoid?SANDERS: The President in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary.

I wish that were true. It's not.

As regular readers may recall, in February 2016, as part of his general embrace of violence as a campaign tool, Donald Trump offered some advice to supporters in Iowa. "[I]f you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously, okay, just knock the hell," he said. "I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees; I promise, I promise."

Indeed, this is more than just a passing curiosity: Trump is at the center of ongoing civil litigation stemming from his public rhetoric.

A Washington Post report, which highlighted a series of relevant video clips, said Sarah Huckabee Sanders' claim is "laughable," adding, "Even if you don't believe Trump has technically incited violence (which he has been sued for), he clearly nodded toward violence at his campaign rallies. Sometimes it was veiled; other times it was unmistakable. Sometimes he was talking about self-defense, but it was clear he was advocating for a 'form of violence.'"