By Ryan Sommers , Associated Press WriterPresident Donald Trump is under fire for an off-color remark that has been interpreted by some conservatives as a threat to violence.
But on Wednesday, Trump defended himself against the accusation, saying that he never intended to imply violence against anyone, including Democrats.
The Republican president made the comments during a meeting with some business leaders in the White House on Wednesday night and then walked back his comments later in the day.
The White House later issued a statement saying the president was trying to show that he was not trying to incite violence.
“What I’m saying is, I think you’ve seen the polls, you’ve got the numbers, the numbers are not what they seem to be,” Trump said.
“And so I’m not suggesting that anyone in that room is a racist.
I’m just saying that I think the polls are going to show a different picture.
And I’m asking the same question again: Do you think we should be using force on people who don’t agree with us?”
The comment came as Trump was trying unsuccessfully to tamp down a controversy that erupted during the Republican National Convention in July, when Trump criticized a speech by Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.
In an interview with MSNBC that day, Trump said he didn’t think there was a “political dimension” to the protests, which focused on police killings and the treatment of Black people.
Trump also said during that interview that he would not “endorse” Mckamps speech.
But he later apologized and said he did not mean to imply there was political motivation behind the protests.
“I think I’m being very careful, as you know, because I think I have a lot of respect for him,” Trump told MSNBC.
“I think he’s a very decent person and I think that he’s got a lot to offer.
And I was not suggesting to you or anybody else that he shouldn’t be there.
But I was saying to you that it was a political thing and he should have been there.”
Trump later said he had been “mischaracterizing” his comments and that he did apologize.
But Trump has been accused of racial animus for decades, including a 2007 comment about African Americans that was widely condemned as racist and a 2015 remark that sparked a nationwide manhunt.
In the first presidential debate last fall, Trump also called for “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
In the two-minute video, Trump, who is in his final weeks in office, is seen talking to business leaders and making disparaging remarks about the country’s manufacturing base.
It is not clear what Trump is saying in the clip, but it was posted to YouTube on Wednesday.