On September 16, 2016 at a campaign rally in Miami, Florida, Donald Trump misrepresented Hillary Clinton’s intended policies about gun safety and once again made a vague suggestion that she be assassinated.
“Now, you know she’s very much against the Second Amendment, she wants to destroy your Second Amendment — guns, guns, guns, right? I think what we should do is, she goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons, they should disarm, right? I think they should disarm. Immediately, what do you think? Yeah, take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. Take their – let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, OK? It’ll be very dangerous.”
Trump himself did not indicate that he would opt to have his bodyguards drop their weapons, and it’s not out of the question that he probably wouldn’t do such a thing, as he believes he is under attack all the time. It could be said that as far as he’s concerned, there’s no difference between being criticized and being assassinated. In fact, the view he takes of the press is so thin-skinned that not only has he proposed altering legislation to make it easier for him to sue his detractors for libel, but his campaign withheld press passes for one of his campaign rallies from Vice Media, resulting in the arrest of journalist Alex Thompson, in the wake of Vice publishing numerous unflattering reports about him.
Trump’s remark on September 16 was only the second time in the history of the United States that a candidate for President made a vague insinuation that his rival ought to be assassinated. At a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina the month before, Trump made a similar comment as he expressed apprehension at the idea of Hillary Clinton selecting a Supreme Court Justice that would skew the bench in a more liberal direction.
“If she gets to pick her judges ― nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”
Shortly after Trump’s speech on Friday, Boris Epshteyn, the senior adviser for Trump’s campaign known for his denial of Trump’s sinister behavior, typically claimed that Trump was merely “being sarcastic.” Come Monday, September 19, 2016, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough tried to dismiss Trump’s Second Amendment comment as nothing serious, claiming that “it was something conservatives have been saying for a long time.” To be sure, though conservatives have expressed disapproval of people’s access to firearms restricted, before 2016, no candidate ever publicly hinted that his rival be killed, and Donald Trump did that twice within six weeks. The entire panel of Scarborough’s guests indeed were well aware of that, and expressed their disagreement clearly. British journalist Katty Kay noted:
“The implication of what he’s saying is let’s disarm those around here so she is vulnerable, and therefore, let’s see what happens to her if she was in a position where she was not protected by guns.”
Scarborough continued to defend his comments while misrepresenting Hillary Clinton’s position on firearms.
“That’s the thing, she’s always going to be protected by guns. This is the conservative argument. Hillary Clinton has had people around her with guns wherever she went since 1978. Since 1978! And for her to say that somebody that wants to protect their family with a certain kind of gun shouldn’t have that gun and she’s been against handguns as well — or her husband was certainly talking about a handgun ban back in the 1990s — seems to conservatives to be the same as environmental activists screaming at Americans for driving a pickup truck while their flying around the country in a Hawker 800 XL.”
Jon Heilemann, a political analyst, took it upon himself to scold Scarborough for his lack of concern.
“I think talking loosely about the safety of another candidate is just a dumb thing to do. You are sort of suggesting something bad might happen to her. Why are you introducing that as a piece of rhetoric?”
Though Scarborough remarked in his defense that he was displeased with Trump’s previous comments along the lines of suggesting Hillary Clinton be assassinated, immediately afterward he said:
“’Let’s see what happens’ is as ridiculous as me saying, ‘You know what? You think you’re so smart, okay, I’m going to build a rocket ship and you’re going to have to get in that rocket ship and you’re going to go to Mars. And then let’s see what happens, let’s see if you’re really as smart as you think you are.’ Hillary Clinton will no more walk down the street without a ton of secret service around her for the rest of her life most likely than you would fly to Mars.”
Once more, the panel of guests took him to task. Heilemann stated:
“I’ve heard you make a thousand smart nuanced arguments about where you think the line should be between what’s acceptable gun safety measures and what are unacceptable intrusions on the Second Amendment. Donald Trump could make those arguments. He could criticize her in 500 ways… There are a million ways to talk about this that don’t incite these kind of fears.”
Mark Halperin, another political analyst who expressed disapproval at Trump’s remarks earlier, calling them careless, remarked:
“I think this is worse because he did it again. I’m against phony outrage by either campaign or anybody else. This isn’t phony outrage. This is really upsetting to someone who’s life has been threatened. You just shouldn’t do it.”
Indeed, taken alongside Trump’s casual attitude regarding the violence on the part of his supporters, two insinuations on his part that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated are cause for concern. Perhaps if Trump were running against a sitting U.S. President, he would be less likely to get away with it. Then again, perhaps in a race with no incumbent candidates, if one recommends the assassination of the other, perhaps such a thing should be taken as seriously as it would if the candidate being essentially made a target was already in office.
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