Factbox-‘Bloodbath,’ ‘vermin,’ ‘animals’: Trump’s rhetoric on the trail

By Thomson Reuters Mar 22, 2024 | 5:08 AM

By Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made a series of inflammatory and racist statements on the U.S. campaign trail since declaring his candidacy in November 2022.

In some cases, he has used violent imagery to lambaste immigrants and opponents. He has warned that the United States is on the verge of collapse, and his rhetoric has raised concerns that he might flout democratic norms by using the power of the state to target perceived enemies if he is elected.

Here are some of Trump’s more controversial statements to date:


Trump has said on several occasions that immigrants in the United States illegally are “poisoning the blood of our country.”

Anti-Defamation League leader Jonathan Greenblatt called the language “racist, xenophobic and despicable.” The campaign of Democratic President Joe Biden compared Trump’s comments to those of Adolf Hitler, who used the phrase “blood poisoning” in his manifesto “Mein Kampf.”

Public opinion polls show that illegal immigration is a leading concern for voters, and Trump has consistently portrayed immigration as a major driver of violent crime and economic decay.

In past statements, Trump has suggested that Democrats are purposefully allowing migrants into the country to grow their political support.

This is a key element of the far-right “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which asserts that leftist and Jewish elites are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with immigrants of color that will lead to a “white genocide.”

The debate over the economic effects of immigration is decades-long, though most researchers say immigration broadly boosts economic growth.

Some 33% of Republicans in a February Reuters/Ipsos poll cited immigration as their top issue, while 6% of Democrats said the same.


Trump pledged at a November rally in New Hampshire that he would “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.”

Those comments drew rebukes from congressional Democrats and some moderate Republicans. Some historians have traced the use of the word “vermin” to Hitler and Italy’s Benito Mussolini.

Political historians say the use of dehumanizing rhetoric – including words like “vermin” – makes it easier to strip away rights from residents and citizens as they are seen as less worthy of democratic or constitutional protections. Nazis, for instance, frequently referred to Jews as lice, rats and vermin.

The Trump campaign has dismissed those comparisons.


During a March appearance alongside a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, Trump warned of a “bloodbath” if he fails to unseat Biden in November’s election.

At the time Trump was discussing the need to protect the U.S. auto industry from overseas competition, and Trump and allies later said he was referring to the auto industry when he used the term.

Trump’s campaign has sought to portray Biden as a threat to automaking jobs in Michigan, a key swing state, due to the Biden administration’s promotion of electric vehicles.

Biden’s campaign team rejected that characterization and condemned what it called Trump’s “extremism,” “his thirst for revenge” and his “threats of political violence.”


Trump has frequently referred to immigrants in the country illegally in subhuman terms, for example referring to them as animals who are prone to violence.

“In some cases they’re not people, in my opinion,” he said during his March appearance in Ohio. “But I’m not allowed to say that because the radical Left says that’s a terrible thing to say. “These are animals, OK, and we have to stop it,” he said.

During stump speeches, Trump frequently claims that immigrants crossing the border illegally have escaped from prisons and asylums in their home countries and are fueling violent crime in the United States.

While available data on criminals’ immigration status is sparse, researchers say people in the country illegally do not commit violent crimes at a higher rate than native-born citizens.


Trump drew the ire of Biden’s campaign and civil rights leaders and groups in February when he suggested Black voters were more drawn to him because of his criminal indictments. He also said Black voters had come to “embrace” his mugshots.

“And then I got indicted a second time and a third time and a fourth time. And a lot of people said that that’s why the Black people like me because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against,” Trump said while speaking to a Black conservative group in South Carolina before the state’s primary election, which he went on to win.

Trump’s legal challenges, including federal charges over his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and his handling of classified documents, among other state charges and civil lawsuits, differ greatly from the historic inequities Black Americans have experienced in the criminal justice system.

Trump has also described at least two Black prosecutors – Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James – as “animals.” He has repeatedly referred to James as “Peekaboo,” which rhymes with a racial slur.

Trump allies say his attacks are referring to prosecutors’ conduct, not their race, and they say he is working hard to win the support of Black voters.


Trump frequently leans into apocalyptic imagery on the campaign trail, telling supporters that if he does not win in November – or if he does not otherwise get his way – the country will enter into terminal decline.

At a March campaign event in North Carolina, Trump said Biden’s immigration policies amounted to a “conspiracy to overthrow the United States” through lax security policies that had allowed millions of migrants to stream across the U.S. border with Mexico.

Biden’s administration, Trump contended, seeks “to collapse the American system, nullify the will of the actual American voters and establish a new base of power that gives them control for generations.”

In response, Biden’s campaign pointed to a border security bill in Congress that Trump helped torpedo in February by urging Republicans to vote against it.


During a televised town hall in December, Trump said he would not be a dictator “other than (on) Day One” of a potential second term. He said he would close the southern border with Mexico and expand oil drilling during the first day of his administration.

Biden’s campaign said the comments were explicit proof that he wants to be an autocrat, while Trump’s allies said he was joking.

Biden has centered his campaign on the contention that stopping Trump from returning to office is crucial, as Trump represents a threat to democracy.

Trump argues that Biden is a more serious threat to democracy, as federal law enforcement agencies under him are prosecuting prominent Republicans, himself included.

Some 44% of Democrats said extremism is their top election issue, according to the February Reuters/Ipsos poll, while 13% of Republicans said the same.

GRAPHIC: Where Biden and Trump stand on the issues.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery, editing by Ross Colvin, Kieran Murray and Howard Goller)