Trump denies accountability for protests
By Doina Chiacu & Bob Chiarito
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is refusing to take responsibility for clashes at his campaign events and has criticised protesters who have dogged his rallies and forced him to cancel one in Chicago last week.
When a protester interrupted his speech on Sunday at an airport hangar in Bloomington, Illinois, minutes after it began, Trump derided him as a "disrupter" and told the cheering crowd: "Don't worry about it -- I don't hear their voice."
"Our rallies are so big and we have so many people, I never hear their voices. I only hear our people's voices saying: 'There they are, there they are,'" the billionaire businessman said as the audience roared approval and some 2,000 protesters waited outside.
Two later rallies on Sunday in Ohio and Florida passed without disruption.
Trump is trying to cement his lead over his remaining Republican rivals -- US Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Governor John Kasich -- in five states that hold presidential nominating contests on Tuesday for Republicans and Democrats: Florida, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri.
The four Republicans and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are vying to run in the November 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.
Trump, on a series of Sunday morning television appearances, rebutted strong criticism from Republican rivals and Democrats that he was encouraging discord with divisive language disparaging Muslims and illegal immigrants.
"I don't accept responsibility. I do not condone violence in any shape," Trump said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The 69-year-old New York real estate mogul defended his supporters and said he was considering helping pay the legal fees of a 78-year-old white man who punched a young black man at a Trump rally in North Carolina last week.
The man, Trump said, "got carried away."
Trump had earlier promised to help cover the legal fees of supporters involved in clashes at his rallies.
On Friday night, thousands of protesters, many of them telling journalists they were Sanders or Clinton supporters, showed up at the Chicago rally, forcing Trump to cancel the event and casting a shadow over his weekend rallies.
Trump drew condemnation from his rivals.
"We are now seeing images on television that we haven't seen in this country since the 1960s, images that make us look like a Third World country," Rubio, 44, said at a campaign event in Florida.
"Do we really want to live in a country where Americans hate each other?"
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner and former US secretary of state, said Trump was "incredibly bigoted" and pitting Americans against each other.
"He is trafficking in hate and fear," she told CNN.
Trump said tension at his rallies came from people being "sick and tired" of American leadership that has cost them jobs through trade deals, failed to defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, and treated military veterans poorly.
Trump has harnessed the discontent of white, working-class voters who blame trade deals for costing them jobs.
He has proposed building a wall along the US-Mexico border, disparaged some Mexican immigrants as criminals and advocated a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.