In an interview with “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump defended his campaign manager for an alleged incident at a campaign rally in Tucson, Arizona Saturday night in which he appears to grab the collar of a protester.
He also called the protesters "sick" and didn't appear to back down about the notion that there would be riots if he were denied the nomination at a contested convention.
The alleged incident is the most recent controversy for Corey Lewandowski, who was accused of grabbing the arm of a female reporter at an event earlier this month. The campaign has strongly denied the allegations and questioned her credibility.
“They had signs up in that area, that were horrendous, that I cannot say what they said on the sign,” Trump said of the incident in Tucson. "And, I will give him credit. Now he didn’t touch him.”
Trump, said that security in the arena was “lax.”
"I give [Lewandowski] credit for having spirit," he said. "He wanted them to take down those horrible profanity laced signs.”
During the incident, which was captured on video, Lewandowski appears to grab the collar of a protester at the same time as a member of Trump's private security team. The protester and his companion had been escorted out earlier in the rally. It is unclear how they came back in.
Despite what can be seen on multiple sources of video, Trump's campaign said in a statement Saturday night that Lewandowski made no contact with the protester and Trump made no mention of any footage during “This Week."
"The individual he was speaking with was pulled from behind by the man to Lewandowski’s left,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement to ABC News. "The video clearly shows the protester reacting to the man who pulled him, not to Mr. Lewandowski. Mr. Trump does not condone violence at his rallies, which are private events paid for by the campaign."
Lewandowski, in a move that could be considered unusual for most campaign managers, often patrols the crowd at events.
On March 8, Lewandowski was accused of grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields, who at the time worked at conservative website Breitbart. Lewandowski and the campaign denied having touched her, though a Washington Post reporter supported her claim, and audio seemed to bolster her version of events.
Trump’s campaign has turned into a flashpoint for protests; yesterday in Arizona, a group of protesters blocked the road to his rally outside of Phoenix, where three were arrested. And then, that night in Tucson, a protester being escorted out with a companion appearing to wear a Ku Klux Klan hood was allegedly sucker-punched by rally-goer.
"You know it was a tough thing to watch, and I watched that. Why would a protester walk into a room with a Ku Klux Klan outfit on?” Trump asked.
Trump told Stephanopoulos that he doesn’t condone violence but went on the blame the “sick” protesters, saying that he’s not necessarily upset by the supporter punching the protester.
"I wouldn’t use the word upset. I think it’s very unfair that these…professional, in many cases sick protesters can put cars in a road, blocking thousands of great Americans from coming to a speech, and nobody says anything about that,” Trump said.
"It’s a very unfair double standard."
Trump was also questioned about saying that there will be “riots” if he’s denied the nomination. He said that he would “certainly” tell his supporters not to riot but added that it would be difficult.
“These people are fervent. They want to see positive things happen for our country. And I would certainly say that. I don’t want to see riots. I don’t want to see problems. But you know you have millions of people we’re talking about,” he responded.
Trump also made waves when he questioned the faith of former Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, asking if attendees at a recent rally in Salt Lake City were sure that he was a Mormon.
He said to Stephanopoulos on “This Week" that he meant it in a “joking” way.
“The Mormons are very smart people, and I said it in a joking way, but they can take it any way; you can take it any way you want. The Mormons are very smart people. I know many Mormons. I don't think Mitt Romney is a smart person. I never have thought he was a smart person,” he said.
Trump then doubled down on his comments. "And I'm not going to change it, because I think Mitt Romney has proven to be not a smart person,” he said.