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Critics Decry Trump’s Downplaying of “Bloodbath” Comments

Examined alongside other violent rhetoric he’s employed, Trump’s comments are deeply troubling, commentators say.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Dayton International Airport on March 16, 2024, in Vandalia, Ohio.

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign team tried to downplay his comments from over the weekend in which he said the U.S. would witness a “bloodbath” if he didn’t win the 2024 presidential election, insinuating that critics were overreacting.

Trump made the remark during a campaign speech in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday while discussing the future of the automobile industry should president Joe Biden win a second term.

“We’re going to put a 100 percent tariff on every single car that comes across the line, and you’re not going to be able to sell those guys if I get elected,” Trump said to the crowd, discussing how he would handle international auto trade. “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole – that’s gonna be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That’ll be the least of it.”

The Biden campaign quickly seized on those words and more from the speech — including Trump describing migrants as “animals” — to criticize Trump’s rhetoric.

Trump “wants another January 6,” said Biden spokesperson James Singer, “but the American people are going to give him another electoral defeat this November because they continue to reject his extremism, his affection for violence, and his thirst for revenge.”

Trump’s team sought to monetize the controversy by sending a campaign email stating that the former president had merely meant an economic bloodbath for the automobile industry, not the country, should he lose to Biden a second time.

The email referred to critics of the former president as “LIARS,” and falsely claimed that “the Fake News & Democrat [sic] Party…used edited clips to viciously misquote me.”

But some media pundits rejected the Trump campaign’s attempt to reframe the “bloodbath” remarks.

“It’s just bullshit,” MSNBC anchor and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough said.

Critics of Trump also sought to use the “context” argument against him, saying that his use of the word “bloodbath” was clearly meant to evoke a call for violence, should he lose again.

“Why give the benefit of the doubt to a man who has repeatedly warned of violence if he loses an election or a court case and who — lest we forget! — incited an armed attack on the United States government?” wrote Zeteo’s Mehdi Hasan. “Why give the benefit of the doubt to a man who, at that very same rally on Saturday, called migrants ‘animals,’ referred to the January 6th insurrectionists as ‘hostages,’ and even saluted them? In recent months, Trump has repeatedly vowed to pardon and free those convicted of crimes on January 6th, 2021. That’s the context.”

Presidential historian Steven Beschloss also weighed in on Trump’s and his followers’ excuses for his incendiary comments, claiming that the former president’s word choice was not accidental.

“When he uses the word ‘bloodbath’ — yes, it was in the context of the automobile industry speech, but he knew exactly what he was saying,” Beschloss said in an MSNBC interview on Monday, adding that:

As we talk about this campaign, as it unfolds, we have never seen anything like this in American history. A major party candidate is saying, ‘You elect me, there’s going to be dictatorship, bloodbath, violence, retribution against my political enemies’ — that equals what we’ve seen in [Nazi] Germany.

Trump’s rhetoric in the past has indeed inspired his most ardent of loyalists to act out in violent ways. In the 2020 presidential debates, he told the Proud Boys organization to “stand back and stand by,” a statement the white nationalist organization took to mean as an order to ready themselves for action to help him, if necessary.

During his January 6, 2021, speech at the White House that preceded the attack on Congress at the Capitol, Trump told his followers they couldn’t take back the country “without strength,” and used other incendiary language before telling his loyalists to march to the building. Many January 6 defendants who have been charged by the Justice Department have said they interpreted Trump’s words as a call to violence.

Trump in 2022 also called for the Constitution to be temporarily “terminated” in order to return him to power. More recently, he’s said he would act like a dictator during his first day in office if elected president again.

And echoing his own comments made over the weekend, Trump said that, if criminal charges against him influenced the outcome of the 2024 race, there would be “bedlam” in the country as his supporters would reject the outcome.

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