WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump called a supporter from Air Force One on Thursday night after mistakenly identifying him as a protester during a campaign rally and mocking him from the stage.
“That guy’s got a serious weight problem,” Trump said earlier that night in New Hampshire, as security officers confronted a group of protesters seated in the stands behind the president’s podium. “Go home. Start exercising. Get him out of here, please,” he added.
“Got a bigger problem than I do,” Trump added, making a self-deprecating joke about his own weight struggles.
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The president appeared to have mistaken Frank Dawson, a retired law enforcement officer, for a protester, as Dawson got mixed in the shuffle while trying to break up the protestors’ disruption.
In an interview after the rally with Fox News’ Griff Jenkins, Dawson said he did not hold the president’s mockery against him, characterizing it as a misunderstanding and laughing about the incident.
“He didn’t see me rip the signs away from those three people sitting near us,” Dawson said, wearing a navy blue "Trump 2020" T-shirt. “They were trying to cause a ruckus and they jumped up and started yelling.”
Trump called him from Air Force One Thursday night after the rally and left a voicemail, according to a senior administration official.
A man who answered the phone at Dawson's home and identified himself as the Trump supporter said he had not seen the president's call on his phone until he got home because of poor cell service at the venue.
He said the voicemail had not been an apology. "[Trump] did not apologize to me, nothing to apologize for,” he said. “He thanked me for his support. It was a ‘thank you,’ he did not apologize to me.”
“I owe [Trump] depth of gratitude because he called me,” he added. “I was honored to be called.... He’s a stand-up guy.”
Asked for his reaction to the president's apparent commentary on his weight, Dawson brushed it off. “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me. ... I really don’t care.”
Lauren Egan reports for NBC News, based in Washington.