Chants of “send her back” by supporters of President Donald Trump, attacking Somali-born US Representative Ilhan Omar, have triggered a wave of concern from both sides of politics.
Facing a backlash, US President Donald Trump on Thursday distanced himself from supporters’ chants of “send her back” after he criticized Somali-born Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar at a rally in North Carolina.
“I felt a little bit badly about it,” the president told reporters at the White House when asked about the chants at Wednesday night’s rally, which drew an outpouring of criticism from Democrats and some of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans.
Mr Trump paused for 11 seconds when the chants erupted after he recounted comments by Ms Omar, who was born in Somalia and emigrated to the United States, that he described as “vicious anti-Semitic screeds.”
He told reporters at the White House he had started speaking very quickly after the chanting began, but he did not say he would ask his supporters to refrain from such behavior.
“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 it,” Mr Trump said.
Ms Omar fired back at the president, in response to the "send her back" chants - tweeting "I am where I belong, at the people's house and you're just gonna have to deal".
She is was one of four liberal politicians - all women of colour - that Mr Trump attacked as un-American, saying they were welcome to leave the country if they did not like his policies on issues such as immigration and defending Israel.
Mr Trump tweeted over the weekend that the four progressive representatives, known as “the squad” - Ms Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts - should “go back” where they came from, even though all are US citizens and three are US-born.
Alarmed that the inflammatory chant might become a theme of the 2020 election campaign, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives discussed the potential political risks at a breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence, according to Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina.
“We cannot be defined by this,” said Mr Walker, telling reporters that he raised the topic at the Pence breakfast. “That does not need to be our campaign call.”