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Trump’s ‘Bloodbath’ Comment

Para leer en español, vea esta traducción de Google Translate.

While speaking about the potential loss of U.S. auto manufacturing jobs to foreign countries, former President Donald Trump said if he isn’t elected, “it’s going to be a bloodbath for the country.”

President Joe Biden’s campaign quickly accused Trump of fomenting “political violence.” The Trump campaign said Trump was clearly using the term in the context of an economic bloodbath.

“If you actually watch and listen to the section, he was talking about the auto industry and tariffs,” Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s campaign, told the Washington Post, adding that “Biden’s policies will create an economic bloodbath for the auto industry and autoworkers.”

That explanation seems the most plausible, given the context of Trump’s comments.

Speaking at a rally on the grounds of the Dayton International Airport in Ohio, Trump said that over the last three decades, Mexico has siphoned off U.S. auto manufacturing jobs, and he accused China of building car manufacturing plants in Mexico that will cost U.S. autoworkers their jobs.

Trump, March 16: China now is building a couple of massive plants where they’re going to build the cars in Mexico and think, they think, that they’re going to sell those cars into the United States with no tax at the border. Let me tell you something to China, if you’re listening President Xi, and you and I are friends, but he understands the way I deal. Those big monster car manufacturing plants that you’re building in Mexico right now, and you think you’re going to get that, you’re going to not hire Americans, and you’re going to sell the cars to us? No. We’re going to put a 100% tariff on every single car that comes across the line, and you’re not going to be able to sell those cars. If I get elected. Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath, for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That’ll be the least of it. But they’re not going to sell those cars.

The Chinese electric vehicle company BYD says it is planning to build an EV plant in Mexico. But the company says it intends to sell the cars locally to consumers in Mexico and has no plans to sell any across the border in the U.S.

On Truth Social on March 18, Trump wrote that his words were being purposely misconstrued.

“The Fake News Media, and their Democrat Partners in the destruction of our Nation, pretended to be shocked at my use of the word BLOODBATH, even though they fully understood that I was simply referring to imports allowed by Crooked Joe Biden, which are killing the automobile industry,” Trump wrote, promising that if elected U.S. auto manufacturing “WILL THRIVE LIKE NEVER BEFORE.”

(An aside: When Trump was president, auto manufacturing jobs rose about 5.8% to 1,012,500 in his first two years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but dipped in his third year, and then again sharply during the pandemic. There were 949,300 auto manufacturing jobs in the U.S. when Trump left office. Under Biden, the number of auto manufacturing jobs has increased about 12.2% to 1,065,100 in February, the most recent data available.)

The Trump campaign also noted — rightly — that one of the definitions of “bloodbath,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a major economic disaster.” We did a Nexis search of TV news transcripts and found numerous instances of bloodbath being used in that way.

Another definition provided by Merriam-Webster is “a notably fierce, violent, or destructive contest or struggle,” which is how Biden, his campaign and others viewed the former president’s “bloodbath” comment.

In a post on X, Biden posted a clip of Trump saying, “Now, if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a bloodbath, for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country. That’ll be the least of it.” Biden commented, “It’s clear this guy wants another January 6.”

At the start of his speech in Ohio, Trump saluted as the sound system played a recording of the so-called J6 Prison Choir singing its song “Justice for All.” The song is a mashup of the choir — featuring people incarcerated for their role in the attack on the Capitol — singing the “Star Spangled Banner” as Trump recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

After the song finished, Trump praised the “spirit” of the “hostages,” a word he has repeatedly used to describe those convicted of various crimes for their roles in the Jan. 6 riot.

“They’ve been treated terribly and very unfairly, and you know that and everybody knows that,” Trump said, vowing that once elected, he would work on their behalf to free them.

“And we’re going to be working on that, soon as — the first day we get into office,” Trump said. “We’re going to save our country, and we’re going to work with the people to treat those unbelievable patriots, and they were unbelievable patriots, and are. You see the spirit, this cheering. They’re cheering while they’re doing that, and they did that in prison. And it’s a disgrace, in my opinion.”

Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on March 17 about Trump’s “bloodbath” comments, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy said Trump’s rhetoric often “walks up to the edge,” allowing people on both sides of the political aisle to interpret his meaning.

“That kind of rhetoric, it’s always on the edge, maybe doesn’t cross, maybe does, depending upon your perspective,” Cassidy said. “I also think, though, that the mainstream media contributes to it. If you take the one about the bloodbath, which arguably could be about an economic bloodbath not about kind of street violence related to the election, then it gives his defenders something to focus on, something – which was distorted. So, yes, he always walks up to the edge on that rhetoric. And again, that’s why people are concerned. But sometimes the mainstream media, whether they want to or not, can’t resist, and they go just a little bit too far, which distracts from what could be the impact.”

Cassidy noted that the definition of bloodbath includes an economic disaster.

“And so if he’s speaking about the auto industry in particular in Ohio, then you can take it with a little bit more context,” Cassidy said. “That’s why I say you walk up to the line. Depending upon the perspective, somebody is going to interpret it. He’s running against Biden, so Biden’s going to say it’s about political violence. His defenders want to defend him, and so they’re going to say it’s about economic disaster. There’s always just that little bit of tension there, which allows the dispute about the interpretation as opposed to the kind of general sort of, ‘Is this a person we want to have in office?'”

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