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Friday 23 August 2019

Trump says he would rather rally crowd does not chant ‘send her back’

Mr Trump faced widespread criticism for not doing more to stop the chant directed at Somali-born congresswoman Ilhan Omar at an event two weeks ago.

Donald Trump allowed the crowd at his last rally to chant the slogan for 13 seconds (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump allowed the crowd at his last rally to chant the slogan for 13 seconds (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

By Jonathan Lemire and Dan Sewell, Associated Press

US President Donald Trump has said he would prefer that supporters at his upcoming rally do not chant “send her back”.

Mr Trump faced widespread criticism for not doing more to stop the chant directed at Somali-born congresswoman Ilhan Omar at an event two weeks ago.

Speaking to reporters before leaving the White House for a rally in Cincinnati, Mr Trump said he does not know whether his crowd will chant the slogan, or what his response would be if they do. He added that he “loves” his political supporters regardless.

He said: “I don’t know that you can stop people. If they do the chant, we’ll have to see what happens.”

The chant about the Minnesota Democrat by a roaring crowd in North Carolina last month rattled Republicans and raised the prospect of a 2020 presidential campaign increasingly fought along racial lines.

It followed racist tweets Mr Trump sent against Ms Omar and three other congresswomen of colour, instructing them to get out of the US “right now” and saying if they “hate our country”, they can go back to their “broken and crime-infested” countries.

Two weeks ago, Mr Trump wavered in his response to the divisive cries, expressing disapproval about it the next day and later retreating from those concerns.

Since then, Mr Trump has pushed ahead with incendiary tweets and a series of attacks on a veteran African-American congressman and his predominantly black district in Baltimore.

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Trump spoke with reporters before heading to the rally (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Heightening the drama, Mr Trump’s Ohio rally will come on the heels of a pair of debates among the Democrats who want to replace him and will take place against a backdrop of simmering racial tension in the host city of Cincinnati.

All eyes will be watching the Ohio crowd’s behaviour and how Mr Trump reacts. Even his closest advisers seem uncertain as to what might happen.

“If it happened again, he might make an effort to speak out about it,” vice president Mike Pence said recently.

Republican congressman Steve Chabot, who represents a Cincinnati-area district, said he hopes the crowd will avoid such chants this time, and he thinks Mr Trump will react more quickly if it does happen.

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Supporters of President Donald Trump wait in line to enter the rally in Cincinnati (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

Mr Chabot said: “I would discourage the crowd from doing anything inappropriate and I think saying something like that would be inappropriate. I would hope that the president would silence the crowd, tell them: ‘Hey, don’t do that, there’s no place for that. It’s not helpful, it’s not right.'”

Long accused of weaponizing race for political gain, Mr Trump has escalated his harsh language in recent weeks, beginning with racist tweets about Ms Omar, the Minnesota congresswoman who moved to the United States as a child, and her Democratic House colleagues Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Days later, the Greenville crowd’s “Send her back!” shouts resounded for 13 seconds as Mr Trump paused in his speech.

After first saying he was not happy about the chant, Mr Trump in subsequent days praised the “patriots” in the North Carolina crowd. Since then, he has not backed off his criticism of the congresswomen of colour, and instead launched repeated attacks on congressman Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore, describing the majority-black city as a “living hell”.

PA Media

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