Following a weekend of violent clashes between Donald Trump's supporters and protesters, former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says he sees the "real possibility" of escalation.
"He actually represents where people are,” Carson said Monday on TODAY, adding that "we have to stop and focus on the real enemy,” such as Islamic terrorism rather than each other.
Carson became the latest rival-turned-supporter of Trump on Friday, saying the two “buried the hatchet” over nasty exchanges over the past few months and have moved on. Carson also said there were “two different” Donald Trumps: the man seen by the public and the “cerebral” side seen in private who “considers thing carefully.”
Just hours later Friday, the Trump campaign cancelled a rally scheduled in Chicago because of escalating clashes between Trump protesters and supporters. And on Saturday, a protester charged Trump’s podium at another campaign event.
Trump’s rivals, including Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have blamed Trump for encouraging a violent tone at his events and inciting his supporters to get physical.
While Carson admitted he would have handled the weekend events differently, he put most of the blame on protesters, saying they’re not giving Trump supporters much choice in how to respond.
"There is a real possibility of escalation, because those who are the victim of them have two choices, they can submit and do whatever those protestors want them to do, or they can fight back," he said. "And if they deicide to fight back, there could be an escalation."
Carson also said the focus has been misplaced in coverage of recent Trump events.
"The problem is that there are those who are being taught that if someone disagrees with you, you have the right to interfere with their First Amendment rights, their ability to express themselves, their freedom of speech. That’s where the emphasis needs to be," he said.
Carson said his endorsement of Trump followed a private conversation with the Republican front-runner, whom he said "thinks deeply and does have some openness to spiritual things."