Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) tore into GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, the press and the anger in U.S. political discourse overall Saturday after what he called “third-world images” the previous night in Chicago at Trump’s rally.
“This is a frightening, grotesque, and disturbing development in American politics,” Rubio said at a press avail.
Live images of fistfights and unrest at a Trump rally that was shut down by anti-Trump protesters were met with disgust by the media and the remaining 2016 presidential candidates. Rubio acknowledged the anger permeating the political culture but said a leader wouldn’t be fanning the flames.
“The job of a leader is not to stoke that anger,” Rubio said. “The job of a leader is to address the causes of that anger and try to solve it, not try to stoke that anger so that they vote for you.”
Rubio ripped Trump for failing to properly denounce the violent culture surrounding his campaign.
“This is a man who in rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people who are in the crowd and he will pay their legal fees,” Rubio said. “Someone who has basically encouraged people in the audience to rough up anyone who stands up and says something he doesn’t like. And, I think the media has to bear some responsibility. For too long those comments were ignored. Some people thought they were cute.
“And he’s gotten an extraordinary amount of coverage for all the stuff he says that’s outrageous. Every time Donald Trump offends someone, says something ridiculous, says something offensive, it’s wall to wall coverage and it’s only elevated him even more. So I think we all look at this and say everyone bears responsibility for what’s happening but the result is, this is this is what a culture and a society looks like when everybody says whatever the heck they want.”
Rubio specifically condemned Trump for failing to disavow a supporter who assaulted a black protester at a rally last week.
“A Donald Trump supporter sucker punched a man the other day at an event. Donald Trump has yet to condemn him. After the man was released from jail, he said, ‘next time I’ll kill him.’ He still has not condemned it,” Rubio said.
“And so it tells you that in many ways he doesn’t want to say anything to his supporters because he doesn’t want to turn them off, because he understands that the reason why they are voting for him is because he has tapped into this anger. The problem is leadership has never been about taking people’s anger and using it to get them to vote for you.“
A reporter asked if Rubio was upset or disappointed at what he’d seen the night before.
“Both. I’m upset because of what it’s doing to our country,” Rubio said. “We are being ripped apart at the seams now, the divisions are becoming along class and in some instances it appears race and other elements and it’s disturbing, but I’m also — I’m sad. I’m sad for this country. This is supposed to be the example to the world of how a republic functions and instead people are watching third world images last night coming out of Chicago.”
Rubio also said, “I don’t know,” when asked if he would back Trump if he won the GOP nomination.
“I mean, I already talked about the fact that I think Hillary Clinton would be terrible for this country, but the fact that you’re even asking me that question, I still at this moment continue and intend to support the Republican nominee, but, getting harder every day,” Rubio said.