The furor over Donald Trump’s comments about gun owners’ power in the presidential campaign continued Wednesday.
The Republican candidate’s supporters attempted to quell the controversy, saying either that Trump was joking or that Democrats and the media were spinning it into something bigger than it was. Many interpreted Trump’s comments as a threat to rival Hillary Clinton.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, said the billionaire businessman was trying to unite Second Amendment supporters to turn out to defeat Clinton.
“This was a joke…He wasn’t inciting violence,” Lewandowski told Chris Cuomo on CNN’s New Day.
Ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that the Clinton campaign and the press were misconstruing Trump’s words.
“What he intended is very, very simple — that [gun owners] should vote against her,” Giuliani said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “He had no idea that anybody would interpret his words that way. It was so obvious to all of us what he meant.”
The controversy erupted on Tuesday afternoon when Trump said at a rally that Second Amendment defenders might be able to stop Clinton.
“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” Trump said. “But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day, if Hillary gets to put her judges in, right now we’re tied.”
Trump said Tuesday evening that he was simply trying to unify gun owners against Clinton in the voting booth.
“This is a political movement. This is a strong political movement, the Second Amendment,” Trump said to Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “And there can be no other interpretation … I mean, give me a break.”
Maine Senator Susan Collins, who said she won’t vote for either party’s candidate, said on “New Day” Wednesday that she did not think Trump was inciting violence, but that he has only himself to blame for people leaping to that conclusion because of his consistent “stream of inappropriate and reckless comments.”
But Clinton supporters continued blasting Trump on Wednesday, saying that violence is never a joking matter.
“Words matter, particularly from those folks who want to be president of the United States,” Clinton surrogate Christine Quinn, a former New York City Council speaker, said on CNN’s New Day. “To think that joking about any kind of violence could be funny … simply reflects a disregard for the impact of violence.”
Bernie King, the daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., took to Twitter to voice her concerns.
“As the daughter of a leader who was assassinated, I find #Trump’s comments distasteful, disturbing, dangerous,” she tweeted.
And former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather posted on Facebook that Trump “crossed a line with dangerous potential.”
“By any objective analysis, this is a new low and unprecedented in the history of American presidential politics,” he wrote. “This is no longer about policy, civility, decency or even temperament. This is a direct threat of violence against a political rival. It is not just against the norms of American politics, it raises a serious question of whether it is against the law.”
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is using Trump’s words to fundraise, sending out his comments in an email to supporters Wednesday morning.
By Tami Luhby, CNN