Trump’s Off-Script Moment Shows He Hasn’t Pivoted

Political tension continues to rise as the election draws into its final months, and this tension made itself clear when violence broke out at a Donald Trump rally in Asheville, North Carolina on Monday night, according to The Washington Post. The video footage of the violence, as documented by ABC News, shows a Trump supporter slapping protesters right before the protesters are escorted out of the rally. The man who appeared to do the slapping was permitted to stay.

Trump's response to the violence while unsurprising, was disappointing, to say the least. According to a report from the Asheville Citizen-Times, when Trump caught wind of the altercation, he momentarily broke from his speech and in the off-script moment offered this gem:

Is there anywhere in American [sic] more fun to be than a Trump rally? It's OK, the cameras are following this.

Unsurprisingly, Trump's view that violence is "fun" presents a stark contrast to Hillary Clinton's take. The former Secretary of State did not limit her critique of violent behavior to partisan politics, condemning anti-Trump protesters for attacking his supporters at a California rally in June:

I don't think that people who are protesting and using physical violence against people supporting Trump are helping anybody.

While the past few months have largely provided a respite from overt violence at Trump rallies, during the primaries there were multiple violent outbreaks at them. When they occurred, the Republican candidate often responded to the violence with either casual detachment or encouragement.

Despite the face that Trump explicitly said, "I don't condone violence," during an interview with CBS's Face the Nation back in March, he has consistently neglected to outright condemn the violence at his rallies and, if anything, has expressed amusement at the outbreaks.

The same Republican nominee who recently promised to decrease inner-city violence, appeared to encourage violence in his supporters at a rally in early February in Iowa after a protester threw a tomato. Trump told the crowd:

If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.

While recently Trump has been upping his bid for presidency by promising a safer, crime-free America during a Republican debate in March, when asked about the violence at his protests he said:

People come [to Trump campaign events] with tremendous passion and love for their country. ... When they see what's going on in this country, they have anger that's unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don't like seeing bad trade deals. They don't like seeing higher taxes. They don't like seeing a loss of their jobs. ... And I see it. There's some anger. There's also great love for the country. It's a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all.

The fact that Trump's rhetoric towards the violence of his own supporters has not overtly shifted during his campaign — even as he tries to stick to tele-prompters and pivot to "presidential mode" — paints a disparaging picture of his true views. It raises (what should be) a critical question for voters: will Trump be able to create a safer America if he can't condemn his own supporters?