Reuters/Tribune News Service/Washington
US President Donald Trump yesterday distanced himself from supporters’ chants of “send her back” after he criticised Somali-born Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar at a rally in North Carolina.
“I felt a little bit badly about it,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about the chants, which drew an outpouring of criticism. “I would say that I was not happy with it. I disagreed with it.
But again I didn’t say that. They did. And I disagreed with.”
Earlier Trump, who has made religious freedom a centrepiece of his foreign policy, met victims of religious persecution from various countries.
Meanwhile the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman said it was not acceptable that the crowd at Trump’s rally on Wednesday chanted “send her back”.
But Rep. Tom Emmer declined to say whether the controversy could damage GOP efforts to win back the House next year. He also said Republicans were unprepared for health care attacks last year, but next year will be focus on the impact of Democrats’ calls to expand Medicare to cover more people.
Emmer, who represents Minnesota in the House, said he did not see the president’s rally, but said of the chant, “there’s no place for that kind of stuff.”
“There’s not a racist bone in this president’s body,” Emmer told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “What he was trying to say is that if you don’t appreciate this country, you don’t have to be here.
“There’s no place for ... ‘send her back,’” Emmer added. “I disagree with that completely.”
Depending on the outcome of a special election in North Carolina’s 9th District, Republicans need a net gain of either 19 or 20 seats to win the majority.
Asked if the president being on the ballot was a benefit or a disadvantage, Emmer suggested it was beneficial because people who were angry with Trump could direct their anger directly at him, rather than down-ballot Republicans.
“The last election we heard a lot of people, especially in suburban seats, that were going in, they wanted to vote against the president and all they had was to vote against our guys,” Emmer said. “This time they get a choice.”
Emmer declined to say whether Republicans in those suburban areas should embrace the president or distance themselves from him. But Emmer said the committee will assist suburban candidates in localising their races, defining their Democratic opponents, and building their own personal brands.
Although he pushed back against the “send her back” chant, Emmer did slam Omar and the other members of “the squad” - New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley - as socialists. Emmer said they were the de facto leaders of the Democratic conference, which he dubbed, “The New Red Army.”
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