MIAMI -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Saturday condemned in stark terms the protesters who disrupted a Donald Trump rally in Chicago. The Republican presidential front-runner's campaign canceled the event on Friday night because of security concerns, after pro- and anti-Trump factions scuffled and five people were arrested.
Asked during a brief interview whether he shared the concerns of Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) that Trump had created a “toxic environment” by frequently imploring his supporters to respond violently to protesters, Huckabee scoffed.
“No, I think it’s ridiculous to blame Trump for a bunch of thugs out on the street-- people coming in and trying to shut down somebody else’s speech,” Huckabee told The Huffington Post. “If they don’t like Donald Trump, vote for somebody else, and don’t show up. And leave the place with empty seats. But to try to shut someone down, that’s not how America works.”
Huckabee’s use of the word “thugs” to describe the Chicago protesters echoed Trump’s own language. “The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment Rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!” the real estate mogul said in a Twitter post.
The former Arkansas governor has been increasingly vocal in defending Trump in recent weeks.
Shortly before he ended his own 2016 presidential bid after earning less than 2 percent of the vote less than 2 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses, Huckabee appeared alongside former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) at a Trump event in Des Moines and has since defended Trump against accusations that the Republican frontrunner is a racist.
Though Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have joined Kasich in condemning Trump for encouraging violence against dissenters at his rallies, Huckabee contended in the interview that the protesters deserved all of the blame for what happened in Chicago.
“It was clearly a very orchestrated, organized attempt to shut down Trump’s rally, and I think it’s really indicative that the left in America -- they’re not interested in diversity, tolerance or free speech,” Huckabee said. “If there’s an idea that’s not theirs, their response to it is not to overwhelm it with more votes. It’s to shut down the other side. And that was really unfortunate.”
Huckabee was in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood on Saturday for a Newsmax TV appearance.
The Florida resident said that he had already taken advantage of early voting in Tuesday’s state primary but would not say which candidate earned his support.
“I was on the ballot in Florida, you know,” he reminded a reporter.
Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.