Donald Trump was showing off his knowledge of all things Pennsylvania during a Pittsburgh rally Wednesday night when he asked a baffling question — about Penn State's famed football coach.
“I went to school in this state,” Trump said. “We know that right? I know a lot about Pennsylvania and it’s great. How’s Joe Paterno? We’re gonna bring that back? How about that whole deal? And we do love Penn State. Do we love Penn State? I mean in all fairness.”
Paterno died at the age of 85 on January 22, 2012. His legacy as a legendary college football coach was tainted after an investigative report alleged he and three other top Penn State administrators concealed sex abuse claims against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Both Paterno’s family and his supporters have defended Joe Paterno saying he knew nothing about Sandusky’s sexual abuse.
A campaign spokeswoman later confirmed that the GOP presidential front-runner wasn't talking about Paterno himself but about his statue, which was removed from outside the football stadium four years ago, angering students and many alumni. Many have called for Paterno’s statue to be placed back at Beaver stadium.
In February, two artists involved in producing the Paterno statue said they're working on two new statues of the coach in a secret location.
Trump's comments sparked reactions from several people on social media, including Joe Paterno’s son, Scott Paterno, who gave Trump the benefit of the doubt.
"I would suspect he means the statue," Scott Paterno tweeted.
Trump's rally drew thousands to a downtown convention center — as well as hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the venue, chanting and waving signs.
Inside, Trump pumped up the hometown crowd.
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"I know a lot about Pennsylvania, and it's great," said Trump, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
As his supporters filed out at the end of the rally, they and the protesters engaged in heated verbal confrontations, with supporters chanting "USA!" and "Build that wall!" and protesters shouting profanities. Police in riot gear separated them.
Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Emily Schaffer said there were some minor injuries, including to police officers, but she did not have additional details.
Among those hurt was an 18-year-old Trump supporter who was led to an emergency medical services van and treated after he was pepper-sprayed in the face by a man his friends identified as a protester.
David Chang contributed to this article.