Donald Trump switched tactics Monday on the escalating violence at his campaign rallies, denying that there is any violence at all.
At a question and answer session with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Hickory, North Carolina, Trump argued that no one has been hurt at his rallies, which he called “love-fests.”
“The press is now calling, they’re saying, ‘Oh but there’s such violence.’ There’s no violence. You know how many people have been hurt at our rallies? I think like, basically none, other than I guess maybe somebody got hit once or something. But there’s no violence,” he said.
“The people that are supporters of Donald Trump want to see America be great again. That’s what it is,” Trump added. “There’s no violence. There’s love-fests. These are love-fests.”
Trump had to cancel a campaign event in Chicago over the weekend over security concerns; in recent days his events have spurred more tension and physical altercations between supporters and protesters. A Trump fan in North Carolina was charged with assault last week for sucker-punching a protester in the face. Trump has offered to pay his legal fees.
But the real estate mogul’s denial on Monday marks a change in strategy for him in talking about the issue. While Trump has said that he doesn’t condone violence, he has also obliquely defended it, calling the protesters “bad dudes” and “really dangerous.”
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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.Rogers@time.com