MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — The New Hampshire state chairman of the presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) admitted in a Tuesday interview with Breitbart News that he was violent with an anti-Rubio protester dressed like a robot at an election day event today.
Cliff Hurst, the New Hampshire state chairman of the official Rubio campaign, admitted he physically roughed up the protester in an interview with Breitbart News—but claimed the protester started it.
Hurst joined Rubio’s campaign from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s, just hours before Walker dropped out of the presidential race in 2015.
“He was pushing me, almost pushed me over. I’m 76- years-old. And he went right against me and pushed me almost to the ground,” Hurst said.
When asked if it was the protester who started it, Hurst said: “Yes, of course.”
Video, which is making it way around the internet on YouTube, shows Hurst—who hasn’t been publicly identified before now—with his arms around the protester’s neck.
sWATCH VIDEO OF RUBIO CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN ROUGHING UP PROTESTOR:
Hurst, wearing a green jacket, grabbed the protesterin a headlock and pulled him away from Sen. Rubio. “Why do you have your hands on me?” said the protester, whom Breitbart News can also reveal for the first time as progressive political activist Aaron Black, said to Hurst as Hurst manhandled him.
“Yeah, it was because when you’re attacked like that—he just attacked me,” Hurst said when asked to explain why he engaged in a physical altercation with the robot-costumed Black. “We were right crowded together and he just almost knocked me down.”
In a separate exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Black said that the video proves Hurst’s account of events isn’t accurate.
“All I know is I felt hands around my neck—or something that felt like hands,” Black told Breitbart News.
Black added that the video proves Hurst’s claim that he started it isn’t true.
“No. The video doesn’t lie. It’s all on the video,” Black said when asked to respond to Hurst’s comments to Breitbart News. “It was not provoked at all. I was just trying to express my opinion, and that’s why we have a First Amendment right? We should all be able to express our opinion. This doesn’t have to get physical like that. That’s insane.”
The video shows that after Hurst successfully head locked Black away from the senator, and media filmed the incident, Black pointed out the media to the enraged Rubio campaign chairman—and Hurst backed down.
“Look at all these cameras! Look at all these cameras!” Black, who was wearing the robot costume and carrying a handmade sign with the words “ROBOT RUBIO” printed on them, shouted at Hurst.
At that point, Hurst stopped his physical altercation with Black.
“Yeah, well I figured he was going to not bother me anymore,” Hurst told Breitbart News about that part of the video. “And I wasn’t in a place to be bothered at that time.”
In response to Hurst’s comments, Black laughed back at him, telling Breitbart News: “So my First Amendment rights bother him? That’s my only question. Do my First Amendment rights bother him?”
Hurst told Breitbart News this is the first time he’s ever been involved in a physical altercation like this after years of campaigning in New Hampshire. “I don’t think I’ve had such an altercation, I think, in my life,” Hurst said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I mean, he was violent against me.”
Hurst added that he’s a peaceful person. “I have nothing to add—I’m a very peace-loving, easygoing guy,” Hurst said. “I’ve been in several campaigns over the years, chaired many, and never had anything like this happen. I don’t understand why he was doing it.”
He also claimed that Black wasn’t a peaceful protester.
“He almost knocked me over, I don’t know if that’s peaceful or not,” Hurst said of Black.
Black, meanwhile, says he isn’t sure if he’ll file charges against Hurst yet or not.
“You know, I like to take the moral high ground,” Black said when asked if he plans to file charges. “I’m just not interested in stooping to that level. I care about politics and I love my country and we should all be able to have a dialogue and not have this sort of thing happen. I have plenty of friends who disagree with me, and we don’t get physical.”
But Black did say the Rubio campaign, in his estimation, clearly coordinated this attack on him.
“Somebody was telling it to other people to push me around, cover my sign, push me out of the way,” Black said. “That was coordinated. Somebody told them to do that.”
Black added that he thinks this trickles up to Rubio himself. Black said:
I think it’s really hypocritical for a candidate, or for his team for that matter, especially one that touts the Constitution as much as Rubio does to violate others’ First Amendment rights when it’s convenient to them. Clearly, he has a glass jaw and when we exercised our opinion, they didn’t like it. I’m all for political discourse. I respect people on both sides of the aisle because they’re passionate about it, but when you take it to this level it’s inappropriate. Nobody should put their hands on anyone. I just think that it’s important to have civil dialogue, and that was clearly over the line. You heard what I said on the video, but it’s very hypocritical when you’re always talking about the Constitution for you to use the Constitution for your own convenience.
Rubio communications director Alex Conant has not responded to a request for comment on whether Rubio condones the violent actions the senator’s campaign chairman took against Black, and if he doesn’t, whether the senator will take any corrective action with regard to Hurst’s position on the campaign.
The Rubio as-a-talking-points-spewing-robot meme has caught fire in the political narrative since Rubio’s horrendous debate performance on Saturday evening here, where New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie exposed him as someone who memorizes 25-second speeches and repeats them over and over again. Rubio has had a rough go of things since Saturday night, and his supposed MarcoMentum–his campaign’s word for political momentum–has been stalled ever since the Christie incident during the debate.