WASHINGTON • Mrs Hillary Clinton sternly warned her Republican presidential rival Donald Trump about his "casual inciting" of violence, saying his startling remarks suggesting gun rights supporters could act against her "crossed the line".
It was the Democratic nominee's most forceful denunciation after Mr Trump caused a firestorm by suggesting to supporters in North Carolina on Tuesday that "Second Amendment people" - those who support gun rights - could take action to stop Mrs Clinton from appointing US Supreme Court justices if she becomes president.
"Yesterday we witnessed the latest in a long line of casual comments by Donald Trump that crossed the line," Mrs Clinton told a rally in Des Moines, Iowa.
"Words matter, my friends. And if you are running to be president, or you are president of the United States, words can have tremendous consequences." Mr Trump and his campaign had quickly sought to douse the flames, insisting the Republican flagbearer was merely urging gun rights supporters to reject her candidacy at the ballot box.
Mrs Clinton appeared to reject the Trump campaign's defence, warning of the dangers of reckless language during a presidential race.
She slammed Mr Trump's "casual cruelty to a gold star family," referring to the billionaire's clash with the parents of a Muslim American soldier who was killed in action.
With Team Trump seeking to dig the candidate out of a deepening hole, former New York mayor and Trump backer Rudy Giuliani insisted the uproar was triggered by "the Clinton spin machine".
The Secret Service, tasked with protecting the president and presidential nominees, was taking Mr Trump's remarks seriously and has spoken with Mr Trump's campaign about them, CNN reported. However, a federal official later said the Secret Service had not formally spoken with Mr Trump's campaign.
Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, launched an open appeal on Wednesday to independents and Republicans repulsed by Mr Trump's comments. The campaign unveiled a new website, togetherforamerica.com, that lists dozens of Republicans and independents who back Mrs Clinton, including former director of national intelligence John Negroponte.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS