EUGENE, Ore. (CN) — Donald Trump continued his pivot to the general election on Friday, telling an audience in Eugene, Oregon that Hillary Clinton was “mean” and “nasty” to the women with whom Bill Clinton had affairs.
The presumptive GOP nominee visited Eugene, a small college town best known as home of the University of Oregon and its tradition of liberalism, as the Republican establishment continued to struggle with the idea of Trump being the party’s standard bearer.
The unrest in the air was reflected in Oregon outside the Lane Event Center, where arguments and some productive dialogue broke out between protesters and Trump supporters.
Opponents of Trump are carrying signs with slogans like “Trump Hates Women” and “Be American, Not Partisan,” while Trump’s supporters are shouting things like “This Is Our Country!”
The candidate himself tried to turn the tables on detractors who say his sexist comments about Rosie O’Donnell, Megyn Kelly and other women he disagrees with show that he’s not a good candidate for women voters.
“Women want strength,” Trump said. “They want border security. Nobody respects women more than Donald Trump.”
Trump said it was the Democrat’s likely presidential nominee who would actually be bad for women if elected. He said Clinton was pouring campaign money into misguided attack ads about his track record on women’s issues.
Trump said Hillary Clinton was “mean, nasty” to the women who had affairs with Bill Clinton.
“What they’re doing is $90 million in ads on Donald Trump and it has to do with the women’s issue,” Trump said. “But I’m thinking to myself, nobody in the history of this country was worse with women than Bill Clinton. And Hillary was a total enabler. She would go after these women and destroy their lives. Have you ever heard about what Hillary did to the women that Bill had affairs with? And they’re going after me about women? Give me a break, folks.”
Trump repeatedly encouraged the crowd of 4,000 to boo at news people assembled within a corral in the center of the room.
“These are the most horrible, dishonest people you’ll ever meet,” he said to the apparent delight of his supporters.
And Trump praised former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, who introduced Trump at an Evansville, Indiana rally on April 28, by saying Trump would have the “guts” to start a nuclear war.
“We gotta talk about this presidential crap just for a moment here,” Knight said at the April 28 rally. “I’ll tell you who they said wasn’t presidential. I don’t even know what the hell presidential means, but they told him he wasn’t presidential. And that guy they told all these people that wanted to say, you’re not presidential, that guy was Harry Truman.
“And Harry Truman, with what he did in dropping and having the guts to drop the bomb in 1944 saved, saved millions of American lives,” Knight added. “And that’s what Harry Truman did. And he became one of the three great presidents of the United States. And here’s a man who would do the same thing, because he’s going to become one of the four great presidents of the United States.”
“Bobby Knight helped me a lot,” Trump said Friday. “He wants to win. I like that. We don’t want to win anymore as a country. Bobby was so great. Tough, sharp, street-wise and he knows how to win. He called me a year ago and said, Mr. Trump, you’ve got to run for president. I said why? And he said, you’re the only one who’s going to straighten out this mess.”
Midway through his hour-long speech, a group of eight protesters erupted with slogans made unintelligible by Trump’s voice drowning them out. The protesters waved small Mexican flags for just a few seconds, until Trump had had enough.
“Get them out of here,” he said several times.
“USA! USA! USA!” the crowd chanted, as security guards hustled the protesters out the doors.
After the event, the crowd spilled out into the parking lot. Just outside the venue doors, vendors hawked buttons and t-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “Don’t be a chump. Vote for Trump.”
A small white car in the parking lot was covered with the words, “Diversity Is a Codeword for White Genocide.”
Trump supporters milled about, making purchases and animatedly discussing the speech.
“It’s like he said, free trade is a good thing, we’re just not doing it right,” one supporter said to another who nodded excited agreement.
Over the low din of supporters rose the voices of an estimated 200 protesters.
“Si se puede!” they yelled. And “F**k Trump!”
Police held the protesters back behind the locked iron gate that surrounded the events center.
Protesters blocked two of the three exits from the parking lot. They pressed against the gates, waving a large Mexican flag, yelling and facing off with a few dozen Trump supporters who gathered inside one of the gates.
“There’s a lot more of us than there are of them,” one Trump supporter said in a low voice to a police officer.
But outside the gates 20 minutes later, Trump’s supporters and detractors were finding common ground, even in the midst of heated debate.
Miguel Montez, 25, the most vocal of the eight protesters who Trump had kicked out of the event, faced off with an 18-year-old wearing a backward Donald Trump visor in his messy blond hair who would give his name only as Kody.
“Right now, we’re basically all assuming that if you’re still supporting Donald Trump, then you think we’re all rapists and drug dealers, like he said about us,” Montez said.
He was referring to a speech Trump gave last June.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best,” Trump said at the time. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
“I’m not racist,” Kody said. “I just think people should come in legally.”
Montez, who said his family had moved to Oregon when he was three years old and has done farm labor in vineyards since he was 13, told Kody immigrants are fleeing danger.
“In Mexico there are a lot of cartels and people get killed every day.” Montez said. “We come here to better ourselves and have a better life.”
A 28-year-old Army veteran who would give his name only as Evan told Montez that just because he supported Trump didn’t mean he supported Trump’s comment about Mexicans.
“I’ve had Hispanic brothers in the military who I fought next to and would die for,” Evan said. “And African Americans who would have died for me.”
Evan said he didn’t agree with Trump’s comment about Mexicans, but said it didn’t define Trump’s candidacy.
“It’s not like he came to my house and said, ‘Evan, this is what I think. Mexicans are bad people,’ and asked me to agree with that.”
“He doesn’t have to,” Montez said. “He’s asking to be president of the United States, which has an effect on way more people than just you.”
- Philippine Mayor Ahead in Vote for President
- Uber & Lyft Exit Austin Over Background Checks