BRISTOL, Va. (CBSNewYork/AP) — On the defensive once again, Donald Trump is blaming faulty interpretations and media bias for an uproar over his comments about the Second Amendment.
He’s insisting he never advocated violence against Hillary Clinton, even as undeterred Democrats pile on.
“Media desperate to distract from Clinton’s anti-2A stance,” he said on Twitter Tuesday evening. “I said pro-2A citizens must organize and get out vote to save our Constitution!”
The latest Trump controversy arose from an offhand quip at a rally.
Trump said there would be “nothing you can do” if Clinton’s elected to stop her from stacking the Supreme Court with anti-gun justices, then added ambiguously, “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is — I don’t know.”
Like so many times before, Trump’s supporters and opponents construed his comments in entirely different ways.
The Clinton campaign said in a statement: “This is simple — what Trump is saying is dangerous. A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”
Tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat: “(at)realDonaldTrump makes death threats because he’s a pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, (D-Conn.), tweeted: “Don’t treat this as a political misstep. It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”
Also on Twitter, former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords said Trump “might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a line between political speech & suggestions of violence.”
Trump continued to defend his comments Tuesday, saying that his point was that Second Amendment advocates are a powerful lobby.
“This is a political movement. This is a strong political movement, the Second Amendment,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “And there can be no other interpretation. Even reporters have told me. I mean, give me a break.”
But in an interview shortly after the rally, Trump seemed unaware of the controversy.
“I think you are talking about — I’m not sure because I haven’t’ heard this question — but I think you’re talking about the power of people that are in favor of the Second Amendment, and they have tremendous political power,” he said.
When asked about Democrats’ statements equating the remark to condoning violence, Trump said, “Oh no, no. This is political power.”
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani came to Trump’s defense.
“He had no idea that anybody would interpret his words that way, that is not the way he meant it, it was a big surprise,” he told “Good Morning America” on Wednesday. “It was so obvious to all of us what he meant.”
Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications advisor, said Trump was referring to the political power of Second Amendment supporters at the ballot box, not violence.
“It’s called the power of unification – 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” he said in a statement. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, also said Trump was talking about the clear election choice for pro-gun voters, not encouraging violence against Clinton.
“Of course not,” Pence said in an interview with NBC Philadelphia. “Donald Trump is urging people around this country to act consistent with their convictions in the course of this election.”
The National Rifle Association, the gun lobby that has endorsed Trump, also came to his defense. The group wrote on Twitter that “there’s nothing we can do” if Clinton is elected while urging voters to defeat her in November.
House Speaker Paul Ryan continued to stand by his party’s nominee.
“It sounds like just a joke gone bad. I hope he clears it up very quickly,” he said. “We will find far better receptivity of our agenda that we’re trying get on track to fix this country’s problems than a Hillary Clinton administration.”
Miller also told CBS News’ Major Garrett that the accusations the GOP nominee was calling for violence are “completely ridiculous.”
“Donald Trump was obviously talking about American voters who are passionate about their Second Amendment rights and advocating they use that power at the ballot box,” Miller told CBS News. “The Clinton campaign is desperate and is obviously throwing all sorts of outrageous charges. I am surprised so many reporters are falling hook-line-and-sinker for what is obviously a ridiculous charge.”
On Twitter, the Secret Service said it “is aware of the comments.”
However, Clinton is dealing with her own controversy on Wednesday after conservative group Judicial Watch released 44 emails they said showed Clinton Foundation staffers asking the State Department for favors in hiring a friend of the campaign.
Trump jumped on it immediately.
“A couple of very bad ones came out, and it’s called ‘pay for play,’ and some of these were really, really bad and illegal,” Trump said. “If it’s true, it’s illegal. You’re paying and you’re getting things.”
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)