RALEIGH, North Carolina -- GOP frontrunner Donald Trump abruptly ended his rally in his first visit to the state as a candidate after his speech was interrupted at least 10 times by protesters - many of them chanting "Black Lives Matter!" as they were escorted out.
Trump received good news earlier in the day, with a new CNN/ORC poll released Friday that shows him leading the field by 20 points, at 36 percent. However, he was visibly annoyed in front of nearly 8,000 people, at one point asking his staff why the protesters weren't being taken out through a different -- and quicker exit.
Trump maintained his composure initially. After the first protester, a woman, interrupted his speech, Trump told the crowd, "Make sure that young lady is in beautiful shape."
However, soon enough, the rally had a different feel as crowd members, campaign staff and press alike were actively on the lookout for more protesters. Trump blamed the media for giving the protesters coverage.
"You know the shame is that it's one person and the dishonest media," Trump said. They are dishonest. You don't believe how dishonest. They are the most dishonest people....They will make that one person into the headline."
By the end, even Trump seemed to acknowledge that it was not just one person. Trump only spoke for about 30 minutes and then took questions for 15 minutes, about 15 minutes shorter than his normal stump speech, which have been going longer and longer recently. Some protesters were holding signs that said "STOP THE HATE. WE MAKE AMERICA GREAT."
Attendees of the rally downplayed the impact of the protesters.
"It's a remarkably ineffective tactic," said 25-year-old Kiefer Wynn, a teacher from Raleigh. "Here, they weren't able to get their message out. The Black Lives Matter movement is all about histrionics and flash instead of substance and ideology."
"I thought it just made them look weak," added 53-year old Angie Black, of Thomasville. "I think a lot of them are here just for publicity."
But it was Trump who ended the speech early, which was striking, given his comments at an August press conference about fellow presidential candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who himself cut a rally short in Seattle as a result of Black Lives Matter protesters.
"I thought that was disgusting," Trump said at the time. "That showed such weakness, the way he was taken away by two young women -- the microphone. They just took the whole place over."
The protesters overshadowed Trump's escalation of some of his rhetoric on foreign policy during his speech. He implied that the United States should have gone after Saudi Arabia directly, claiming the wives of the September 11th hijackers were there and were complicit in the terrorist attacks.
"They sent their wives and their families back to Saudi Arabia," Trump said. "Most of them went back to Saudi Arabia. Those wives knew what their husbands were going to do. We never went after them, we never did anything."
Trump also received one of the more bizarre questions asked at a political rally this campaign cycle.
"Do you think the refugees that are coming here or trying to come here, going to Germany and all over Europe....Do you think they're going to become priests and become celibate?" an unidentified woman asked Trump.
Even Trump was speechless. He asked her to repeat the question - and then he said he didn't want to answer.
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