Donald Trump ditched his teleprompter at his first rally since enduring a fierce backlash from members of his own party after refusing to back away from remarks about a federal judge's "Mexican heritage."
A combative Trump told a crowd of about 2,000 in the Richmond Coliseum, which can sit nearly 12,000, that he is the “least racist person you’ve ever seen.” Trump then declared his intention to change his campaign’s go-to slogan.
“Make America Great Again,” Trump told the crowd. “I'm adding ‘For Everyone’ — because it's really going to be for everyone. It's not going to be for a group of people, it's going be for everyone.”
It was the presumptive nominee’s first public appearance after a series of racially charged comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University, provoked anger and alarm in Capitol Hill and within the Republican party.
Trump has suggested that Curiel may not be able to conduct a fair trial for the notoriously tough-on-immigration GOP nominee because of his "Mexican heritage." Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican-born parents.
The comments have prompted some of Trump's GOP colleagues to waver in whether they can support him as their party's nominee based on rhetoric many have derided as racist, while others have criticized the remarks but continue to say that the party's goal is to elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.
Earlier in the week, a relatively subdued Trump had read from a teleprompter in a speech that sounded like an assurance to a concerned party establishment.
In Richmond Friday, Trump went on to try and coax Hillary Clinton into picking Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who he repeatedly called “Pocahontas,” as her vice presidential nominee. He suggested Warren voted for “Wall Street’s open border immigration bill” and called Clinton the “official candidate of Wall Street.”
“I hope she is chosen by Hillary,” he said, chuckling. “Aw, I would love it.”
Trump also previewed an idea for what a Trump-organized Republican National Convention in Cleveland will look like next month, telling the crowd he wants to hold a “Winners’ Evening.”
“I’m thinking about getting some of the great sports people that I know that like me a lot and that I like,” Trump said, pointing to his previous endorsements by retired basketball coach Bobby Knight and former football player and coach Lou Holtz.
He also touted his friendships with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, UFC president Dana White and NASCAR executive Brian France.
Trump's Richmond appearance coincided with a march of protesters openly suggesting they would fight back against the real estate tycoon's supporters. But despite the protesters' warnings, none of the confrontations percolated into violence.
This was Trump’s first Virginia stop as part of his general election bid, and he pointed out how crucial the state is for his campaign.
"We got to win the state of Virginia!” Trump roared.
Barack Obama won the state in both of his presidential contests and Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, won his governorship in 2014.
Trump took a jab at McAuliffe for restoring the voting rights of felons this spring, musing that “murderers can vote.”
"The whole thing with prisoners doesn’t sound good,” he said.