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Fact Check: Trump Claims He 'Never Said' He'd Pay Legal Fees for Rally Attendees Who Hit Protesters


At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Feb. 1, Trump made that exact promise.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks at the crowd as he speaks at a campaign rally at the I-X Center Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Donald Trump raised some eyebrows today on Good Morning America — insisting that he never said he'd pay the legal fees of rally attendees who hit protesters.

Asked by George Stephanopoulos if that stance supports and encourages violence, the businessman and 2016 Republican front-runner denied ever making that promise.

"No, because I don't condone violence and I didn't say I was going to pay for the fees," Trump said.

Stephanopoulos asked if Trump was planning to pay the legal fees of a man who admitted to punching a protester at a Trump rally last week in North Carolina.

"No, I didn't say that," Trump said in a phone interview. "I never said I was going to pay for fees."

But at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Feb. 1, Trump made that exact promise.

"If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously," Trump said. "Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise."

And on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Trump said his legal team is "looking into" paying the fees for North Carolina rally attendee John McGraw, 78, who was caught on video striking a protester in the face.

He addressed the "tomato" incident specifically:

"Just as I was going up on the stage, I was told by the Secret Service, 'Sir, there's a person or two people in the audience that have tomatoes. They are going to throw them at you, we think. If they do throw them, you have to be prepared.' Now, if you get hit in the face by a tomato, let me tell you, somebody with a strong arm at least, let me tell you, it can be very damaging. Not good. So I was told people were in the audience, two people, with tomatoes and they're going to throw them at me. What I did is I say, 'By the way, if you see anybody with tomatoes, right at the beginning, you gotta stop them. Do whatever you want to do.' I have no objection to what I said, I would say it again. People are there doing harm, you have to go and you have to use equal force. It's not fair, it's a one-way street."

Trump also said in that interview that he doesn't take responsibility for the chaotic and sometimes violent atmosphere of his events.

"I don't accept responsibility, I do not condone violence in any shape," Trump said. " ... The fact is, we have very peaceful rallies."

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