Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

Donald Trump disavows 'send her back' cry at rally

He joined widespread criticism of the campaign crowd's cry after Republicans warned about political blowback from the angry scene

In this file photo taken on July 17, 2019 US President Donald Trump pumps his fists as he speaks for a "Make America Great Again" rally at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, North Carolina. AFP
In this file photo taken on July 17, 2019 US President Donald Trump pumps his fists as he speaks for a "Make America Great Again" rally at Minges Coliseum in Greenville, North Carolina. AFP

US President Donald Trump criticised his own supporters on Thursday after they chanted "send her back" at one of his campaign rallies, a scene that drew criticism from across the political spectrum after he tweeted that a Somali-born Congresswoman should return to her country of origin.

The American leader was shown standing in front of the chant for 13 seconds, but he said that he moved quickly to stop the crowd.

"I started speaking really quickly," he told reporters Thursday. "I was not happy with it. I disagree with it" and "would certainly try" to stop any similar chant at a future rally.

The taunt's target – Democratic Rep Ilhan Omar of Minnesota – said she believes the president is a "fascist" and cast the confrontation as a fight over "what this country truly should be".

President Trump started the week's tumult by tweeting Sunday that Omar and three other freshmen congresswomen could "go back" to their native countries if they were unhappy here. His other targets – all Trump detractors – were Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

All are American citizens, and all but Omar was born in the US. She fled to America as a child with her family from violence-wracked Somalia.

The president did not back down from that criticism on Thursday.

They have "a big obligation and the obligation is to love your country," he said. "There's such hatred. They have such hatred."

To the delight of his thousands of supporters in Greenville, President Trump described Omar and the other three as "left-wing ideologues (who) see our nation as a force of evil."

"A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American Dream - frankly the destruction of our country," President Trump said.

The crowd responded to his attacks with cries of "Send her back!" reminiscent of the "Lock her up!" chants directed in 2016 at the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Several of the Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls condemned Trump's remarks.

"It's vile. It's cowardly. It's xenophobic. It's racist," said California Senator Kamala Harris.

"These members of Congress - children of immigrants, just like so many of us - are an example of exactly what makes America great," said Joe Biden, the former vice president.

Updated: July 19, 2019 01:06 PM

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