President Trump today disavowed the “send her back” chant that broke out at his re-election rally last night when he railed against a Somali-born congresswoman, as Republicans in Congress rushed to distance themselves and their party from the ugly refrain.
Trump said he was “not happy” with the chant, directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a hijab-wearing freshman Democrat whom the president has singled out repeatedly for verbal excoriation.
Today he claimed that he had tried to cut off the chant, an assertion contradicted by video of the event. Asked why he did not stop it, Mr. Trump said, “I think I did — I started speaking very quickly.”
In fact, as the crowd roared “send her back,” Trump looked around silently and paused as the scene unfolded in front of him, doing nothing to halt the chorus.
“I was not happy with it,” Mr. Trump said today at the White House. “I disagree with it.”
“I didn’t say that,” he added. “They did.”
Trump’s effort to dissociate himself from his own supporters reflected the misgivings of his allies, who have flooded the upper echelons of his team with expressions of concern in the wake of a rally that veered into ugly nativist territory.
They warned privately that Trump was on dangerous ground, according to people briefed on the conversations.
Among them were House Republican leaders, who pleaded with Vice President Mike Pence this morning to separate the party from the message embraced by the crowd in Greenville, N.C.
“That does not need to be our campaign call, like we did the ‘lock her up’ last time,” said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina, a top official in the party’s messaging arm, who attended the rally and tweeted hours later that he had “struggled” with the chant. “We cannot be defined by this.”
Still, while they denounced the chant, Republican leaders declined to criticize Trump.
Congressional Republicans have struggled all week to respond to Trump’s attacks on Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to the House, and three other Democratic congresswomen of color who he tweeted over the weekend should “go back” to their countries.
Now they must contend with the nativist fervor of his supporters as captured in the frenzied moment in North Carolina, with a rageful refrain that they worry could further damage their party’s brand.
“Those chants have no place in our party or our country,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, told reporters.
Those were almost the exact words used by Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the chairman of the House Republican campaign arm, earlier today, when he repudiated the chant, but insisted that the Twitter posts that inspired the slogan had been mere mistakes of wording.
“There’s not a racist bone in the president’s body,” he added, referring to Trump’s tweets. “What he was trying to say, he said wrong.”
Omar, a Somalian refugee, called Mr. Trump a “fascist,” but said there was nothing new about his behavior or the response of his supporters.
She cited his years of false claims that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
“He does that every single day, and it’s no different,” Omar said at the Capitol. “What I’m going to be busy doing is uplifting people, and making sure they understand: Here in this country we are all Americans, we are all welcome, irregardless of what he says.”
Even the House’s chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, could not help but join the fray.
He opened the House’s session this morning with a pointed prayer:
“This has been a difficult and contentious week in which darker spirits seem to have been at play in the people’s house. In your most holy name, I now cast out all spirits of darkness from this chamber, spirits not from you.”
Attribution:The New York Times