President Barack Obama defended a pro-Trump protester in front of thousands of his supporters at a rally Friday night, telling the hecklers in his crowd to “respect” even those on the other side.
A few hours later, Donald Trump stood in front of thousands of people and accused Obama of “really screaming” at and berating the protester — something that never occurred.
Obama tells crowd to "respect" protester at Clinton rally: "We live in a country that respects free speech." https://t.co/DlTg7Y6ULY— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 4, 2016
Speaking in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Obama momentarily struggled to contain his crowd as it erupted in chants against a man waving a “Trump: Make America Great Again” banner.
Obama tried quieting the crowd before ticking through reasons to not direct personal anger against the man:
Everybody sit down and be quiet for a second. You've got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. He's not doing nothing. You don't have to worry about him. ...
First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military, and we ought to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly — and we've got to respect our elders.
And fourth of all, don't boo. Vote.
Trump: Obama “spent so much time screaming at this protester”
A little later in the evening, Trump held a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He began by accusing the media of only being interested in the protesters at his rallies. As he has in the past, he also accused the media of refusing to show the true size of his crowds.
And then Trump pivoted to saying that Obama had just that day treated protesters just as badly as or even worse than he had:
Whenever there's a protester, the only time those cameras move — the only time they pick out a protester, because that's a negative thing, right?
Obama today spoke in front of a much smaller crowd than this, by the way, and there was a protester. And a protester that likes us. And what happened is they wouldn't put the cameras on him. They kept the cameras on Obama. And I said, “That's strange.” You saw it today on television, right?
He was talking to the protester — screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say, “He became unhinged! He became —” You have to go back and look and study. And see what happened. They never moved the camera. And he spent so much time screaming at this protester, and frankly, it was a disgrace.
As Vox’s Dara Lind has written about at length, Trump has helped encourage — and refused to disavow — the violence at his rallies. Among the things he has said in front of his thousands of supporters:
- Calling on a black activist to be hurt at one of his rallies: “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”
- A few months later, as authorities escorted out one rally-goer, saying protesters aren’t treated with “consequences” anymore: “They’re being politically correct the way they take them out. Protesters, they realize there are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences. There are none anymore.”
- At one rally, Trump promised to pay the legal fees of someone who assaulted a protester: “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.”
- Threatening himself to get in on the violence against protesters: “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya,” he said.
- Defending a supporter for punching a protester in the face: “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Obama, meanwhile, refused to allow his supporters to even boo a protester. And Trump simply pretended the president had done the exact opposite.