SIOUX CENTER, Iowa — Donald Trump boasted Saturday that support for his presidential campaign would not decline even if he shot someone in the middle of a crowded street.
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump said at a campaign rally here.
After the event, Trump declined to answer when asked by CNN to clarify his comments.
The GOP front-runner has repeatedly pointed to the loyalty of his supporters, many of whom tell reporters and pollsters that almost nothing could make them change their mind about voting for Trump in the presidential race.
Trump’s comments come as the debate about gun violence in America has taken center stage in American political discourse amid several highly publicized mass shootings.
Trump has repeatedly touted his strong support for the Second Amendment and slammed President Barack Obama’s recent use of executive orders to expand the reach of background checks needed to purchase a gun.
The brash billionaire’s comments also come less than two months after two ISIS-inspired terrorists killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, and ISIS-linked attacks killed 130 in Paris. In response, Trump has called for fewer gun restrictions and a harder stance on terrorism.
Asked about Trump’s comment after a campaign event in Iowa, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s top rival for the GOP nomination, shook his head.
“I will let Donald speak for himself,” Cruz said. “I can say I have no intention of shooting anybody in this campaign.”
Trump has joked about killing people before.
Last month, he appeared to consider whether he would kill journalists, as Russian President Vladimir Putin — whom Trump defended — has been accused of doing.
“I would never kill them. I would never do that,” Trump told supporters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before reconsidering.
“Uh, let’s see, uh?” he said aloud, his voice rising. “No, I would never do that.”
Trump asks if he should sue Cruz ‘just for fun’
Donald Trump on Saturday floated the idea of suing his presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada, over his eligibility to run for president.
“Should I do it just for fun?” Trump asked at a campaign rally here.
“It’s so nasty though,” Trump added. “Ugh, I’m so good at that stuff.”
Trump has repeatedly suggested that Cruz may not be eligible to serve as president because he was born in Canada, raising the question of whether Cruz meets the Constitutional requirement that the president be a natural-born citizen.
Cruz has insisted that he meets that bar because he was born to an American mother, making him an American citizen by birth.
Most legal experts have agreed with Cruz’s assessment, but the issue has never been settled in federal court, and Trump noted Saturday that he would have legal standing to sue Cruz over the issue as an opponent for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump began suggesting earlier this month that Cruz’s Canadian birth could endanger Republicans’ chances of winning the White House, arguing that Democrats would sue to keep Cruz out of the White House.
Cruz held dual citizenship until he officially renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014.
Trump on Saturday also reprised a line he used against Cruz on Twitter just a day earlier, noting that Cruz “could run for the prime minister of Canada.”
“And I wouldn’t even complain because he was born in Canada,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments Saturday came nine days before Iowans are set to head to the caucuses to vote in the first contest of the primary cycle.
Trump and Cruz are neck and neck in recent polls, and both candidates have amplified their attacks against each other in recent weeks.
Trump this week launched his first attack ad against Cruz, suggesting the Texan has been inconsistent on immigration, a contrast with Trump’s hardline position on the issue.
Trump on Saturday also raised the subject of Cruz’s previously undisclosed loans he received from Goldman Sachs and Citibank to finance his political campaign that propelled him to the Senate.