RADFORD, Va. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A raucous and protest-ridden Donald Trump rally on the eve of Super Tuesday featured a verbal and physical altercation between a news media photographer and a Secret Service agent, complete with profanity, a choke hold and a body slam.
Chris Morris, the photographer who is contracted to cover the campaign for TIME, was escorted out of the tense rally amid an anti-Trump protest, and detained before being released. The Secret Service says it is investigating “the exact circumstances.” The agent has not been identified.
Trump’s hour-long speech at Radford was interrupted multiple times by protesters — some individual, others acting in groups. Videos of the incident taken by reporters and attendees show Morris attempting to secure a better position to photograph some of the many protesters kicked out of Trump’s Radford event. Rebuffed, Morris is heard cursing at the agent, who then grabs Morris and takes him to the ground.
Seconds later, Morris touched the agent to demonstrate his version of what happened. He was then escorted out.
“I stepped 18 inches outside the pen, and he grabbed me by the neck, choked me, and slammed me to the ground,” Morris said.
Trump’s campaign says it is not aware of all the details surrounding the incident.
Aides to the GOP presidential front-runner, who engaged Monday in his characteristic mockery of both protesters and the press, say the Trump campaign knows nothing of the details, and the widespread tensions did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Trump supporters ahead of Tuesday’s primary slate that could give the billionaire businessman an prohibitive delegate lead over his top rivals.
Trump did not acknowledge the scuffle as it happened, and it’s not clear whether he noticed at all, although at several other points throughout his one-hour speech, he commented directly on protesters.
“Are you from Mexico?” he asked one who protested his talk of building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
He mocked another, saying: “Are you protesting, darling? Get `em outta here. Get `em outta here.”
TIME released a statement Monday saying it has “contacted the U.S. Secret Service to express concerns about the level and nature of the agent’s response,” adding that Morris has expressed remorse “for his part in escalating the confrontation.”
The news organization also noted that “Trump has a strict policy requiring reporters and cameramen to stay inside a gated area, which the candidate often singles out for ridicule during his speeches.”
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports the protesters so distracted Trump that he never answered Sen. Marco Rubio’s latest attack which many consider below the belt.
“He’s always calling me ‘Little Marco.’ And I’ll admit, he’s taller than me. He’s like 6’2’’ which is why I don’t understand why his hands are the size of someone who is 5’2’’. Have you seen his hands? And you know what they say about men with small hands? You can’t trust them, you can’t trust them,” Rubio said.
CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reports Trump continues to have a wide lead over his rivals nationally. A new CNN poll shows Trump at 49 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio with 16 percent, and Sen. Ted Cruz at 15 percent.
Cruz is ahead in Texas and the senator plans to hold onto his home state.
“We are going to have a very good Super Tuesday,” Cruz said.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said that he will find another candidate to vote for if Trump wins the GOP nomination.
“Given what we know about Donald Trump, I can’t vote for that guy either,” Sasse said. “I believe in the Constitution. I’ve taken an oath to protect, serve and defend the Constitution. And if we got to a place where those are the two major party nominees, and I definitely hope that they’re not, I’d have to look for a third party option,” Sasse said, referencing Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s GOP rivals also went after the billionaire for not immediately denouncing supportive comments from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
“In my view, racism and bigotry has no place in politics,” Cruz said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said, “Donald Trump refused to disassociate himself from white supremacists. That’s just horrific.”
“Let me tell you what the party of Lincoln and Reagan can never be about — it can never be about a nominee that when repeatedly asked, refuses to condemn the Ku Klux Klan,” Rubio said.
Trump blamed the ear piece for not hearing the question about Duke’s comments.
“So let me tell you, I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad ear piece that they gave me and you could hardly hear what he was saying,” Trump said.
There are 595 Republican delegates and 865 Democratic votes up for grabs on Super Tuesday.
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