On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump engaged with a protestor who called rival Senator Ted Cruz a vulgar term.
Trump was speaking to a crowd of about 5,000 people inside the Verizon Center in Manchester when a woman in the crowd shouted that Cruz was a “p-ssy.”
“You know what she said? Shout it out,” Trump said. The woman repeated her remark.
“You're not allowed to say that and I never expected to hear you say that again. I never expect to hear you say that again. She said he's a p-ssy,” Trump said, eliciting cheers from the audience.
The incident is likely to drive social media conversation less than 12 hours until the first polls open in New Hampshire, where polls have Trump leading.
“What kind of people do I have here?” Trump said with a smile. Trump then alluded to media criticsm about how he handled a handful of protestors at a rally in December. The protestors were sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement and scuffled with a couple of Trump supporters in the crowd. Some media critics said that Trump should've reprimanded the supporters.
“You're reprimanded,” Trump said, the crowd roared. “Can she stay? Can she stay? You're reprimanded.”
The woman who had first used the word against Cruz was allowed to remain in attendance.
Reached for comment, a spokesman for the Cruz campaign cited a tweet by communications director Rick Tyler, who quipped that Trump was “turning the campaign into the latest episode of a reality show, but let's not forget who whipped who in Iowa.”
As for the attendees at Trump's rally, the verdict on his remarks was mixed.
“It was foul. It wasn't right for him to repeat it,” said Linda Lemon of Manchester, who is supporting Trump. “It'll be all over the news. But you've got to take the good with the bad. He's created jobs. He's self-funded. And he wants to improve our border security.”
Kelly Craioveanu of Hooksett said that she went into the rally an undecided voter and left a Trump supporter. “I don't like that he repeated the ‘p word,’” she said. “But look at all these reporters, that's all they're asking about—nothing about what he said up on that stage.” She said that while she didn't like his utterance of the word, “there's a craziness with all of the candidates. Look at Hillary Clinton. She's out of her mind.”
Johanna Sheffler of Concord said that she was an undecided voter who left the rally leaning toward Trump. She said Trump's utterance of the term “was in poor taste.” “But the incident was more like watching him on Saturday Night Live,” she said. “I didn't particularly care for it, but he's trying to appeal to people in the crowd who feel like they haven't been heard for a long time. I admire that about him.”
Several times throughout Trump's campaign, the bombastic billionaire businessman has driven news cycles after making comments in his speeches that have gone viral on social media. None of the remarks have derailed his campaign, despite his rivals attacking his tone and rhetoric. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who Trump frequently says has “low energy,” called Trump a “jerk” after Trump seemingly imitated a reporter who has a disability during a campaign rally. Trump maintains that he was unaware of the reporter's disability.
Monday's rally was classic Trump: he assailed the media, attacked “incompetent” political leaders and blasted Washington for negotiating poor trade deals that have cost jobs. He also called for more security at the U.S., Mexico border.
“Who's going to pay for the wall?” Trump asked the audience.
“Mexico,” the crowd answered back.
It was the type of signature rally many of his supporters were expecting on the eve of the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1, in which he finished second behind Cruz.
His three oldest adult children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, accompanied their father and his wife, Melania, at the rally. Ivanka and Melania both addressed the audience.
“We love you New Hampshire,” Melania told the crowd at the start of Trump's speech.
Ivanka, who is expecting a child in about two weeks, spoke next. “I have watched my father work his entire life,” she said, praising his work ethic and how he has employed “tens of thousands of people.”
“I’ve never known him to do anything other than rise to the occasion,” she added.