Wednesday 21 August 2019

Trump rejects 'send her back' call but stands by 'racist' tweet

Team talk: Donald Trump and his wife Melania host the American team for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Team talk: Donald Trump and his wife Melania host the American team for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Tim Elfink

Ivanka Trump and senior Republicans yesterday looked to be trying to distance themselves from the chants of "send her back" at her father Donald Trump's North Carolina rally.

The chants against Somali-born Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Wednesday sparked outrage around the world.

Yesterday, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, joined UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, in condemning it.

"Without question, I reject [Mr Trump's comments about Ms Omar and others] and stand in solidarity with the congresswomen he targeted," said Ms Merkel.

Sajid Javid, the British home secretary, also made a thinly disguised reference to the chant in a speech on extremism.

"I know what it's like to be told to go back to where I came from - and I don't think they mean Rochdale," he told the 'Daily Telegraph'.

Mr Trump yesterday defended the crowd who chanted, saying "those are incredible people, incredible patriots".

Asked whether he was unhappy with the row, he replied: "I'm unhappy that a congresswoman can say anti-Semitic things. I'm unhappy that another congresswoman can hate our country."

The 'New York Times' reported that Ivanka Trump had been uncomfortable with the chants and had urged her father on Thursday to reject them.

Senior Republicans were also reported to have told Mike Pence, the US vice president, that they wanted the president to publicly condemn the yelling.

On Thursday, Mr Trump did eventually say he did not approve of it.

However, he soon made it clear he had no intention of backing away from his blistering criticism of Ms Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen.

Mr Trump retweeted a fiery five-minute commentary from a Fox News guest who called the women "anti-Semite bigots" and said "their families really have done nothing for this country".

The clip was also shared by the official account of the White House, a taxpayer-funded feed that is generally less pugnacious than Mr Trump's personal handle.

In the clip from Fox News host Sean Hannity's show, right-wing radio host Mark Levin defends Mr Trump's attacks on Ms Omar and fellow Democrats Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Although Ms Omar, a Somali refugee, became an American citizen at 17 and the other three were born in the United State, Mr Trump had on Sunday suggested they "go back" to the "totally broken and crime infested places from which they came".

The suggestion echoed a long-standing racist trope.

Mr Levin, employing a talking point often used by the president, instead homed in on claims of anti-Semitism against the congresswomen.

"He didn't talk about race, he didn't talk about skin colour, he didn't talk about religion.

"He talked about them, the content, or lack thereof, of their character," Mr Levin said.

"On the other hand... they are degrading an entire faith, an entire people, Jews, Israelis."

Ms Omar has criticised the role of the Israeli lobby and apologised for suggesting money motivates politicians to back Israel.

Both she and Ms Tlaib support the BDS movement - for boycott, divestment and sanctions - which aims to economically pressure Israel to grant more rights to Palestinians.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez has also faced criticism for comparing US Border Patrol detainment facilities to concentration camps.

Mr Trump regularly cites those controversies in his relentless criticism of the women.

Facing criticism over his racist tweets this week, he lashed out at Ms Omar by claiming that she "hates Jews, hates Israel".

That message left some Jewish leaders, including the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, concerned the president was using claims of anti-Semitism to mask his own intemperate remarks.

Mr Levin made an argument similar to the president's, saying "the evidence is overwhelming that these women are anti-Semite bigots".

But he also more broadly hinted at Trump's suggestion the congresswomen are un-American.

"Their families really have done nothing for this country," Mr Levin said.

"I'm going to be very blunt about it, I don't know what they've done in support of this country."

Irish Independent

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