NEW YORK, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- With Hillary Clinton sidelined with pneumonia the past two days, Republican Donald Trump has used the time to focus on her controversial comment dubbing half of his supporters as "deplorable," but not her illness.
In her absence, Clinton's top surrogates have hit the campaign trail, including a rally Monday with former President Bill Clinton and a rally scheduled Tuesday by President Barack Obama that is expected to draw wide media coverage.
But in a round of interviews Monday morning, and campaign rallies in Baltimore and North Carolina later in the day, Trump's repeated references to Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment Friday have gone unrebutted by the candidate herself.
At a fundraiser Friday, Clinton said: "You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic -- you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up."
She walked back the comment Saturday, saying she regretted labeling "half" of Trump's supporters deplorable, but did not apologize for the admonition itself.
In Baltimore, Trump said Clinton's comment should disqualify her from running for office.
"The disdain that Hillary Clinton expressed toward millions of Americans disqualifies her from public service. You cannot run for president if you have such contempt in your heart for the American voter," Trump said. "You can't lead this nation if you have such a low opinion of its citizens."
Trump has also turned the remark into a new commercial, attacking Clinton in swing states.
Trump latched on to the comment again in North Carolina, saying Clinton is running a "hate-filled and negative campaign."
"If Hillary Clinton will not retract her comments in full, I don't see how she can credibly campaign any further," Trump said, demanding an apology.
As Trump spoke about Clinton's comment in North Carolina, a physical altercation broke out in the crowd between a Trump supporter and several protesters. The Trump supporter walked up to the protesters, grabbed one man by the neck and later threw a punch at him, a video of the incident appeared to show. He also shouted at a female protester and another woman who was wearing a hijab who NBC News reported did not appear to be with the protesters, but who was also escorted out of the rally by security.
While Trump has used his solo turn on the campaign trail to press Clinton on policy and her controversial comment, Clinton's pneumonia diagnosis itself has been one topic where Trump has been largely silent. After weeks of alluding to a vague lack of "stamina" by Clinton that fed into rumors about her health -- which Clinton's campaign vehemently denied -- Trump has been diplomatic since Clinton became ill and was forced to leave a Sept. 11 memorial service at Ground Zero in Manhattan on Sunday. The incident prompted her campaign to make public the pneumonia diagnosis she received from her doctor Friday.
"Frankly, I hope she gets well and I hope she gets well soon. It was quite sad, to be honest with you and I hope she gets well soon. No satisfaction, believe me, whatsoever," Trump said Monday.