U.S. Sen. Richard Burr was critical Wednesday of Donald Trump’s comment that “Second Amendment people” might do something to stop Hillary Clinton from making judicial nominations.
Of the North Carolina Republican candidates who have campaigned with their party’s presidential nominee, only Burr sought to distance himself from the remark, which critics said was an incitement to violence.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said at a rally in Wilmington Tuesday. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
While Burr appeared with Trump earlier this month, he was not at the Wilmington event and issued a written statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Like most Americans, I was surprised by the statement,” Burr said. “I think Donald Trump could better serve the Republican Party by spending more time talking about the foreign policy failures under President Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
Gov. Pat McCrory spoke at the Wilmington rally, where he praised Trump as an “outsider” the country needs to “change Washington, D.C.” and enforce immigration laws. He said he’s “proud” to support the presidential campaign.
The News & Observer sent McCrory’s campaign multiple requests for the governor’s reaction to Trump’s “Second Amendment people” comment. No statement was provided.
Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, has been seeking to walk back the remark. On Tuesday night, Trump said he was calling on Second Amendment supporters to vote – even though his comment involved a scenario in which Clinton had already won the presidency.
In a Wednesday interview with MSNBC, Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson offered a different interpretation for the remark. She argued that the candidate meant the National Rifle Association might successfully lobby senators to block Clinton’s judicial nominees if she’s president.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who’s been a speaker at several Trump campaign events, issued a statement indicating he backs Trump’s initial explanation. Like Trump, he blamed the news media’s coverage of the comment.
“Let me get this straight, Hillary Clinton shared a stage last night with the father of the shooter in the Orlando massacre and you are asking me if Trump was right to encourage 2nd Amendment supporters to vote, en masse, to ensure their constitutional rights?” Forest said in an email to a reporter. “Are you equally calling N.C. Democrat candidates asking if they agree with Clinton standing with the father of a murderer? If not, why not?
“Both candidates have clarified their respective remarks/actions, yet the N and O accepts Clinton’s clarification as fact and ascribe doubt to Trump’s. Why?”
The Orlando shooter’s father did not “share the stage” with Clinton but attended her rally Monday night in Kissimmee, south of Orlando, and was spotted in a crowd standing behind her.
Her campaign told the Associated Press that Seddique Mateen was not invited to the 3,000-person, open-door public event and that the campaign wasn’t aware he was there until it ended. “She disagrees with his views and disavows his support,” a Clinton spokesman said.
State Sen. Buck Newton, who’s running for attorney general and has spoken at a Trump campaign event, had little to say about the “Second Amendment people” comment on Wednesday.
Asked about it, his campaign released a brief statement: “Yes, if elected president, Hillary Clinton would gut the 2nd Amendment, notwithstanding the strong opposition of law-abiding gun owners like myself.”
North Carolina Democrats have been calling on GOP state leaders to withdraw their endorsements of Trump as the billionaire continues to make controversial comments that are unusual for a presidential campaign.
“Please put your country ahead of your party and stop supporting this terrible, unstable person,” state Rep. Grier Martin of Raleigh tweeted to McCrory on Tuesday.
Burr’s Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Deborah Ross, called on the senator to condemn Trump’s comments.
“North Carolinians see Trump’s comments for what (they) are: dangerous and making him unfit to be Commander-in-Chief,” Ross said in a news release. “There are many reasons why Sen. Burr should withdraw his support of Trump, and I hope he agrees that regardless of our differences, no one should ever condone violence in this way.”