Real-estate mogul Donald Trump repeatedly joked during a pre-Christmas rally that he would "never kill" reporters, even though he detests them.
"I would never kill them but I do hate them. And some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It's true," Trump said Monday night.
In one notable exchange on Friday, Trump appeared to shrug off MSNBC host Joe Scarborough repeatedly telling him that Putin "kills journalists." Trump doubled down on his position Sunday as ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos confronted him on the issue.
But Trump maintained at his Monday-night rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that it was a "good thing" for Putin to call him "very talented," among other things.
"He said, 'Trump is brilliant. He's great. He's leader. He's the leader of the parties.' And he said nice things. ... All of a sudden I'm hearing things like, 'Oh isn't it terrible that Putin is saying that,'" Trump recalled. "That's not terrible. That's good. That's like a good thing — not a bad thing."
Trump then turned to the allegations that Putin uses killings to intimidate his political opposition, including hostile reporters.
"They said he's killed reporters. And I don't like that. I'm totally against that. And by the way, I hate some of these people. But I would never kill them. I hate them," Trump joked as his supporters cheered and laughed in approval. "These people — honestly, I'll be honest, I'll be honest — I would never kill them. I would never do that."
The business mogul then defended Putin from the allegations, which he suggested were without merit. Trump also said his critics haven't named any of Putin's alleged victims, though Stephanopoulos named one such journalist, Anatoly Belousov, during his interview with Trump.
"I would never kill them and anybody that does I think would be despicable," Trump said of reporters at his Monday rally. "They say, 'He killed reporters.' I said, 'Really? He says he didn't. Other people say he didn't. Who did he kill?' [They say,] 'Well, we don't know, but we hear that.' I said, 'Tell me, who did he kill!?'"
Trump added: "It would be so great if we could get Russia on our side, and other countries on our side, and knock the hell out of ISIS."
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