Everyone at then-candidate Donald Trump’s rally at the then-U.S. Cellular Center on Iowa Caucus day 2016 knew he was worried about tomatoes. He told them so.
“So I get a little notice, in case you see the security guys,” Trump told the crowd gathered in Cedar Rapids. “We have wonderful security guys. They said, ‘Mr. Trump, there may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience.'”
The crowd laughed.
“So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ‘em, would you?”
The crowd cheered.
“Seriously. Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise. It won’t be so much because the courts agree with us, too.”
But no one knew then that Trump was also worried about pineapples. His fruit-based fears didn’t become widely known until last week, when a newly released transcript from a deposition in a civil lawsuit against Trump was published.
“We were told. I thought Secret Service was involved in that, actually,” Trump testified under oath in the deposition last October. “We were told. And you get hit with fruit, it’s — no, it’s very violent stuff. We were on alert for that.”
Trump’s deposition came in a lawsuit filed by protesters who allege Trump ordered his security guards to violently attack them as they protested outside Trump Tower in September 2015. Trump has denied responsibility, and attempted to avoid being deposed in the trial, which is scheduled to begin next month.
During the deposition, Benjamin Dictor, an attorney for the protesters, brought up Trump’s Cedar Rapids statement in an attempt to establish that Trump “incentivize[s] people to engage in violence.”
Trump’s attorney objected, but Trump responded anyway.
“No, I wanted to have people be ready because we were put on alert that they were going to do fruit,” he said. “And some fruit is a lot worse than — tomatoes are bad, by the way. But it’s very dangerous.”
This wasn’t Trump’s first reference to tomatoes as fruit. Attorneys for both sides had already agreed to consider tomatoes as fruit for the purposes of the deposition. (Botanically, a tomato is a fruit, but in 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Dix v. Hadden that a tomato is legally classified as a vegetable for commercial and regulatory purposes.)
Pictor pressed Trump on if he expected security guards who see “someone about to throw a tomato” to “knock the crap out of them”?
“Well, a tomato, a pineapple, a lot of other things they throw,” Trump replied. “Yeah, if the security saw that, I would say you have to — and it’s not just me, it’s other people in the audience get badly hurt. Yeah, I think that they have to be aggressive in stopping that from happening. Because if that happens, you can be killed if that happens.”
Trump went on to say that physical force was justified “To stop somebody from throwing pineapples, tomatoes, bananas, stuff like that, yeah, it’s dangerous stuff.”
Trump’s fear of fruit at the Cedar Rapids rally may well have stemmed from his experience six days earlier in Iowa City, when Andrew Alemao threw two Roma tomatoes at him during a campaign event at the Iowa Memorial Union. The tomatoes missed Trump, and University of Iowa police took Alemao into custody.
Apparently throwing tomatoes is still a thing? Taken on the stage after Trump rally tonight. pic.twitter.com/wkAIuoyDIY
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) January 27, 2016
The average Roma tomato weighs two ounces, and although Romas have thicker skin than some other varieties of tomato, thrown Romas have never been known to kill or seriously injure anyone.
Alemao was charged with disorderly conduct, and also received a long list of online dinner invitations from people who admired his tomato throwing.
On March 7, 2016, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Alemao pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $65.
It’s possible that Trump was referring to that fine when he said in the deposition that, “I think the courts agree with the fact that we were — that was in Iowa. I believe the courts would have, in my opinion, agreed if you’re going to stop someone from hitting you with a hard object, of something, you know, of some kind.”
That response continues to ramble somewhat incoherently for a few more sentences, before Trump concludes, “You got to stop them,” referring to potential fruit throwers.
“You got to stop them from doing it. And that’s for the audience [sic] sake too. Those are the most likely the [sic] people that will be hurt.”
Trump’s appearance in Cedar Rapids on Feb. 1, 2016 was his final campaign event before Republicans gathered for their caucus that night. “We’re going to have a tremendous victory,” he told the crowd.
Trump finished second in the Iowa Caucus with 24.3 percent of the vote, behind Sen. Ted Cruz (27.6 percent) and just ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio (23.1 percent).
“We finished second,” Trump said in a concession speech the night of the caucus. “And I want to tell you something, I’m just honored. I’m really honored. And I want to congratulate Ted.”
Two days later, Trump began falsely claiming, “Cruz did not win Iowa, he stole it.”
“Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified,” Trump tweeted.
Lying about his caucus loss and falsely accusing Iowans of running a dishonest election didn’t damage Trump’s support among Iowa Republicans. He won the state in both in the 2016 and 2020 general election, and last year, an Iowa Poll found 91 percent of the state’s Republicans have a favorable view of him.