President Donald Trump’s disavowal of a “send her back” chant aimed at a Somalia-born Congresswoman appeared to last one day.
The president told reporters at the White House on Friday that “incredible patriots” attended a political rally two days earlier where the crowd broke into the “send her back” chant as Trump complained about Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar.
He declined to reiterate his Thursday criticism of the chant, when he said he “disagreed with it.” He instead launched into yet another attack on Omar, one of four liberal women lawmakers he’s feuded with this week.
“Those are incredible people, those are incredible patriots,” Trump said on Friday. Referring to Omar, he said, “She’s lucky to be where she is, let me tell you. And the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country.”
The audience’s outburst at the North Carolina rally has been called racist by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington. Trump’s seemingly contradictory reaction -- first distancing himself, then backtracking on the disavowal -- reflect the political tension he faces as the 2020 campaign gets underway. He is trying to rev up core supporters while at the same time appease more mainstream Republicans who have joined Democrats in criticizing Trump’s approach to Omar and her colleagues.
The chanting began after Trump outlined grievances against Omar. It was his first rally since he said in tweets on Sunday that the four lawmakers should “go back” where they came from. He repeated the sentiment in public remarks during the week, comments that his opponents and some Republicans have called racist.
Trump’s fight with the four first-year Democrats -- also including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib -- is part of his campaign to portray the Democratic Party as beholden to its left-most flank, lawmakers whose ideology the president calls “socialist.”
But in his attacks, he crossed a line hardly even approached by his modern predecessors in the Oval Office, echoing exclusionary language white supremacists have historically employed against minorities.