Trump Reverses Criticism of Chant 07/20 09:11
President Donald Trump has reversed his previous criticisms of a North
Carolina campaign crowd that chanted "send her back" about a Somali-born
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump has reversed his previous
criticisms of a North Carolina campaign crowd that chanted "send her back"
about a Somali-born congresswoman.
Trump on Friday defended the rally-goers as "patriots" while again
questioning the loyalty of four Democratic lawmakers of color. His comments
marked a return to a pattern that has become familiar during controversies of
his own making: ignite a firestorm, backtrack, then strongly reaffirm his
original, inflammatory position.
When reporters at the White House asked if he was unhappy with the Wednesday
night crowd, Trump responded: "Those are incredible people. They are incredible
patriots. But I'm unhappy when a congresswoman goes and says, 'I'm going to be
the president's nightmare.'"
It was another dizzying twist in a saga sparked by the president's racist
tweets about Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who moved from Somalia as
a child, and her colleagues Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida
Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
The moment took an ugly turn at the rally when the crowd's "send her back"
shouts resounded for 13 seconds as Trump made no attempt to interrupt them. He
paused in his speech and surveyed the scene, taking in the uproar, though the
next day he claimed he did not approve of the chant and tried to stop it.
But on Friday, he made clear he was not disavowing the chant and again laced
into Omar, the target of the chant.
"You can't talk that way about our country. Not when I'm president," Trump
said. "These women have said horrible things about our country and the people
of our country."
He also tweeted that it was "amazing how the Fake News Media became 'crazed'
over the chant 'send her back' by a packed Arena (a record) crowd in the Great
State of North Carolina, but is totally calm & accepting of the most vile and
disgusting statements made by the three Radical Left Congresswomen."
Omar was defiant after the rally, telling reporters at the Capitol that she
believes the president is a "fascist" and casting the confrontation as a fight
over "what this country truly should be."
"We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president because his
policies are a nightmare to us. We are not deterred. We are not frightened,"
she told a cheering crowd that greeted her like a local hero at the
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as she returned from Washington.
The back-and-forth captured the potential impacts of Trump's willingness to
inject racist rhetoric into his reelection fight. Trump's allies distanced
themselves from the chant, fretting over the voters it might turn off in next
year's election and beyond. Democrats, meanwhile, pointed to the episode as a
rallying cry to energize and mobilize their supporters to vote Trump out of
Trump's double flip-flop was reminiscent of his response to the violent
clash between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators in
Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
Then, he initially blamed violence on "both sides" of the altercation. After
a wave of bipartisan condemnation and scathing cable news coverage, he issued a
cleanup statement at the White House days later. Yet, after watching the
response to his reversal, he doubled back to his original position during a
wild Trump Tower news conference.
Trump started the tumult this past week by tweeting Sunday that Omar and
three other freshmen congresswomen could "go back" to their native countries if
they were unhappy here.
The chants at the Trump rally brought criticism from GOP lawmakers as well
as from Democrats, though the Republicans did not fault Trump himself.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California declared that the chant
has "no place in our party and no place in this country."
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois tweeted that it was "ugly, wrong, &
would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must
end, or we risk our great union."
Citing Trump's rhetoric, House Democrats said they were discussing arranging
security for Omar and the three other congresswomen.
Even by Trump's standards, the campaign rally offered an extraordinary
tableau for American politics: a president drinking in a crowd's cries to expel
a congresswoman from the country who's his critic and a woman of color.
It was also the latest demonstration of how Trump's verbal cannonades are
capable of dominating the news. Democrats had hoped the spotlight Thursday
would be on House passage of legislation to boost the minimum wage for the
first time in a decade.