Sen. Marco Rubio said that Donald Trump was not responsible for the violence at his campaign rally in Chicago tonight, instead heaping blame on a culture of political correctness run amok.
Mr. Trump canceled his appearance at the University of Illinois at Chicago after large numbers of protesters flooded the rally and clashed with his supporters. It was just the latest scene of chaos at a Trump campaign event, where violent confrontations are becoming increasingly common. Reporters and protesters have been physically threatened, and no other presidential candidate routinely grapples with this level of chaos.
“I wouldn’t say Mr. Trump is responsible for the events of tonight, but he most certainly in other events has in the past used some pretty rough language and encouraging the crowd, saying things like, ‘in the good old days we used to beat these people up, or I’ll pay your legal bill if you rough them up,'” Mr. Rubio, a Florida Republican, told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly.
He added: “I think he bears some responsibility for the general tone for the things happening. As far as what’s happening tonight, clearly this is an orchestrated effort by people who some of them are probably being paid to do this. I think it is sad all the way around.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of the four Republicans left in the primary, took direct aim at Mr. Trump. In a statement, he said “the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit, and it was ugly.”
“Some let their opposition to his views slip beyond protest into violence, but we can never let that happen,” he added. “I urge people to resist that temptation and rise to a higher level.”
Mr. Rubio, fighting desperately to win his home state on Tuesday and somehow derail Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, was less critical of the New York billionaire than he had been in the past. While Mr. Trump has been known to stoke the rage of his audiences, and his campaign manager is accused of violently yanking a reporter to the ground, Mr. Rubio shied away from the harsh tone he has taken with the front-runner in the past.
“It is clear just from watching some of these images this was an organized effort, orchestrated effort on the part of groups that wanted to disrupt an event, and Chicago is kind of a hub for that kind of activity. There is no doubt about it,” Mr. Rubio said. “You don’t have a right to take away the First Amendment right of people to speak freely. I think you’ve seen some of this on college campuses recently.”
But the Florida senator did assert that Mr. Trump bore “some” responsibility for other episodes of violence, including an incident where a white Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester at a North Carolina rally this week.
Mr. Trump told MSNBC he cancelled the Chicago rally for safety reasons. “I just don’t want to see people hurt,” he said. “We can come back and do it another time.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.