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The Republican frontrunner fielded questions from Matt Lauer and roughly 125 voters, including Trump supporters and those who are still undecided, at the Atkinson Resort and Country Club in Atkinson, New Hampshire.
During the nearly hour-long event, Trump repeated much of his campaign rhetoric about illegal immigration, offering specific examples about crime and incidences of rape for which he blames illegal immigration, and talking about his plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico; support for women; and going after ISIS.
On that last issue, when Lauer asked the audience to applaud if they wanted large numbers of U.S. troops to go into Iraq and fight ISIS, no one responded and then there was some weak applause when prompted.
Trump also repeatedly insisted that he’s “a nice person” when asked about his tendency to use harsh language to refer to other people, including his opponents.
However, he didn’t have such nice things to say about the media. Before the town hall even began, Trump spoke to a group of 1,200 people, in which he said of the media, 30 percent are good and 50 percent are terrible. Lauer asked Trump into which category he falls and Trump said Lauer has always been good to him and treated him fairly.
“The media is really not very good, but you have always treated me fairly,” Trump said of Lauer.
The presidential candidate also trashed Iowa’s Des Moines Register, which showed him polling lower than Ben Carson in the state.
“The Des Moines Register is a terrible paper as far as I’m concerned,” Trump said. “Very liberal paper by the way.”
Speaking of Iowa, Trump also elaborated on his recent Twitter snafu in which his account retweeted a question about whether Carson is leading in the polls in Iowa because “Too much Monsanto in the corn creates issues in the brain.” Trump tweeted that an intern “accidentally” sent that out, but now reports are saying that interns don’t have access to Trump’s account.
Trump explained on Today that while he does “90 percent” of his own tweeting, he has five other “very smart people” who tweet for him when he’s not able to do so himself.
“It was actually a little bit of a joke, the person thought it was funny. Essentially anybody who votes for Carson has to have a problem with their brain — that’s what they said. They thought it was cute. I didn’t think it was cute. I took it off,” Trump said. “It wasn’t a big deal. Frankly I probably would have been better off just leaving it there but I didn’t like it … I actually probably should have left it up, nobody would have cared about it.”
Trump also took questions from users on social media, one of whom asked the real-estate mogul if he’s ever eaten at McDonald’s, worn blue jeans and driven a car. Trump revealed that he ate food from McDonald’s the night before and has worn blue jeans and he drives himself often, including last week.
The real-estate mogul also opened up about his humble beginnings. When asked whether he’d ever been told “no” in his life, Trump said, “Oh many times. My whole life, really, has been a no. It has not been easy for me. I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan, and I had to pay him back, and I had to pay him back with interest. But I came into Manhattan and I started buying properties, and I did great.”
Lauer then took a moment to highlight that Trump characterized the million dollars from his father as a “small loan,” noting “that probably is going to seem pretty easy to a lot of people.”
“By the way, let’s just put this in perspective. You said it hasn’t been easy for you, but my dad gave me a million-dollar loan,” Lauer said.
“You’re right, but a million dollars isn’t very much compared to what I’ve built,” Trump replied. “I mean, I’ve built one of the great companies, but it’s always been, you know, ‘you can’t do this,’ ‘you can’t do that.'”
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was the first presidential candidate to take part in Today‘s town hall during this election cycle, fielding questions from Savannah Guthrie and New Hampshire voters earlier this month.
Trump was also asked what he would get Hillary Clinton for her birthday, which is also on Monday, and he said he wishes her “Happy birthday and lots of love,” but stressed that the two of them are going to have a tough battle.
Earlier, despite his insistence that he’s nice, Trump said that the current election will be based on “competence,” and claimed that the U.S. is currently being run by “stupid people.” Lauer asked Trump, with his penchant for calling his opponents “stupid” and using other derogatory terms including about people’s appearance, whether he’s setting the right example for kids dealing with online bullying.
“I hope I am,” Trump said, “I’m a leader. Every poll said that I’m the best leader by far of every candidate.”
Trump declined a voter’s request for him to reveal one of his weaknesses saying, “I’d like to do that but then I’d expose the weaknesses to Putin and then everybody else and we don’t want to do that, right?…I have weaknesses, I really believe I have weaknesses. I don’t like exposing them because if I expose them then the enemy knows.”
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