Donald Trump on protester: ‘I’d like to punch him in the face’

Updated 11:59 AM EST, Tue February 23, 2016
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Story highlights

Donald Trump took aim at a protester and Ted Cruz on Monday

The rally came the night before Nevada voters weigh in

Las Vegas CNN —  

Donald Trump unleashed tough rhetoric against his rivals as well as a protester at a Monday night rally, the eve before the Nevada caucuses.

“I’d like to punch him in the face,” Trump said, remarking that a man disrupting his rally was escorted out with a smile on his face. “He’s smiling, having a good time.”

The GOP front-runner also ratcheted up his attacks on Sen. Ted Cruz, calling his Republican presidential rival “sick.”

Trump: Protester ‘nasty as hell’

Trump claimed the protester was “nasty as hell” and accused the man of trying to punch the security officers forcing him out of the rally, though the man did not appear to be fighting off those officers.

READ: Trump says Ted Cruz “is sick”

“In the old days,” Trump added, protesters would be “carried out on stretchers.”

“We’re not allowed to push back anymore,” Trump said.

While Trump has at times urged his supporters not to hurt protesters, he has also repeatedly suggested that supporters should be handled more roughly.

When a Black Lives Matter protester was punched and kicked by attendees at a Trump rally last fall, Trump remarked the next day that “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

Shortly after that incident, the Trump campaign began making an announcement at the start of its rallies urging supporters to not harm any protesters, but instead shout “Trump, Trump, Trump” and wait for security officials to escort the protesters out.

The Trump campaign did not make the announcement before Monday’s rally. It was unclear what the man who disrupted it was protesting.