President Donald Trump on Thursday attempted to distance himself from the racist “Send her back!” chant supporters shouted at a rally in North Carolina the night before.
The president specifically blamed his supporters for starting the chant, saying he was unhappy with their words, ignoring the fact that they were simply a repetition of his own racist tweets days earlier.
When asked why he didn’t stop the chant, Trump pushed back. “Number one, I think I did. I started speaking very quickly,” he said.
He added that he “disagreed with it,” and “felt a little badly about it.” He also “was not happy with it,” he said.
Footage from the rally proves this is false. Though the chants first broke out while Trump was speaking, he paused and waited for the crowd to stop before he continued speaking. At least eight clear rounds of “Send her back!” could be heard; Trump did not resume his speech until after they faded away and did nothing to cut it off or address it.
Trump also insisted that his supporters were responsible for the vile language in those chants.
“I didn’t say that,” he said Thursday. “They did.”
After a reporter noted his supporters were “echoing what [he] said in [an earlier] tweet,” Trump responded, “I don’t think if you examine it that you will find that.”
Trump first came under fire this past weekend after he tweeted that four Democratic congresswomen of color — Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ayanna Pressley (MA), and Rashida Tlaib (MI) — should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” — a well-established racist trope.
Three of the women were born in the United States. Omar, whom Trump was attacking when the chant began, is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia.
Minutes after his supporters launched into their racist chant Wednesday night, the president himself repeated their message, stating, “I say, hey, if they don’t like it, let them leave. Let them leave.” He then joked that people would find the comment controversial.
Later on Thursday, a reporter asked Trump why his supporters started the chant. Taking no responsibility for the clear message of his tweet, Trump replied, “What I would suggest [is] you go there, go to North Carolina, and ask the people why did they say that. But that’s what they said.”
White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley doubled down on Trump’s statements during a Fox News interview following the president’s press conference. “Look, he didn’t let the chant go on very long,” Gidley claimed. “He was very stoic and he kept on driving his message home. He didn’t let the crowd slow him down all that long.”
In a twist, less than an hour after his initial press remarks on Thursday, Trump himself appeared to drop that messaging altogether, changing course and claiming those chanting “send her back” were patriots.
“These are people that love our country,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “I want them to keep loving our country.”