Are President Trump's words to blame for violent attacks?

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

"They're sending people that have a lot of problems, and they're bringing those problems with them. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."

"If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. Just knock the hell — I promise you, I'll pay the legal fees."

Those are just some of the things President Donald Trump has said over the last three years that have brought accusations of racism and hate speech.

"I'm frustrated. I'm sad. I'm disheartened with where we are as a country," said Katie Grover, a Kansas voter.

In the wake of the recent shootings at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and multiple pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats, many are once again blaming the president's words for others' actions.  Then there are the defendants in the plot to bomb the homes of Somali refugees in Garden City.  They're asking for leniency, saying then-candidate Trump's rhetoric influenced their actions.

The Anti-Defamation League says last year incidents of public anti-Semitism, from vandalism to bomb threats, increased by 57%.  Hate crimes reported in the nation's 10 biggest cities jumped 12.5% in that time, according to a study by the University of California San Bernardino.

"We have a president who radical white supremacist terrorists think is their president," said Dr. Neal Allen, political scientist at Wichita State University.  "He isn't saying he's their president, but that's what they're hearing."

Dr. Allen says over the top speech isn't anything new for politicians.  It goes back to the beginning of the country.

"We have had all kinds of things like this in American history. Thomas Jefferson's campaign called John Adams a hermaphrodite.  And there's been lots and lots of very difficult rhetoric.  But now what's different is the ability of people to find all kinds of crazy interpretations of political rhetoric on websites that are publicly available," he said.

Allen added politically speech enjoys special protections under U.S. law, beyond the basic 1st Amendment protections.  It doesn't generally incite illegal behavior. The recent violence, he says, is more about those who find confirmation of their beliefs in the president's words.

"If you are predisposed to thinking hateful things, it's not that hard to sit at your computer and find other people to encourage you to do that." Allen said.  He points to the white supremacists who've supported President Donald Trump, though he never asked them for support. "That's something very new in modern American politics and so is the violence that we're starting to see for from the Garden City attacks to Pittsburgh to the pipe bombs."

Most Kansans we spoke with agreed, saying actions are a reflection of the person taking them.

"I think he's making a lot of really great changes," said Stephanie Kowaleski about President Donald Trump.  "But how I grew up and how I was raised is how I can look at other people."

George Gipson said the president's rhetoric goes in one ear and out the other.  "Don't change who I am as a person and that's what it's all about, you as a person."

Though some Kansas voters say the president's words have moved them to political activism.

"What he says is so awful and those people don't deserve that, any of the people that he says that about don't deserve that," said Ashley Robb.  "So it just makes us want to go out and help those people more."

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