“I was not happy with it. I disagree with it. But again, I didn’t say that, they did,” Trump said at the White House a day after the rally, when a crowded arena in North Carolina began the thundering chant as he assailed Rep. Ilhan Omar, a freshman Minnesota Democrat.
Trump’s apparent disavowal came after expressions of concern from Republicans and outright outrage from Democrats, who accused the President of stoking racist sentiments among his white working class base.
It’s the latest in a multi-day controversy involving Trump and a foursome of first-term congresswomen of color, who Trump has repeatedly denigrated as he works to paint them as the face of the Democratic Party.
Speaking to reporters, Trump claimed to have attempted to stop the chant Wednesday night by resuming his speech, though he waited 12 seconds before speaking as the crowd loudly shouted the three words.
In the lull, Trump appeared to listen, letting the chant gain momentum, before resuming his speech, which continued with a litany of complaints against Omar and the other lawmakers.
Later in his remarks, Trump encouraged his audience to “tell them to leave” the US if they continue to criticize him.
“They are always telling us how to run it, how to do this. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it,” Trump said.
In the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump said he “felt a little bit badly” about the chant and claimed the hall where he spoke was noisy and hectic. Still, he said he would “certainly try” to prevent such a chant from breaking out again.
“It was quite a chant,” Trump said.
Though Trump claimed to reporters he disagreed with the feelings expressed by his supporters, though it was his own tweet from several days earlier that originally prompted calls for Omar, along with three other female lawmakers, to leave the country.
In that tweet, Trump cast the women as foreigners who should return to the “broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”