The Slatest

Republicans Unable to Condemn “Send Her Back” Chant Without Equivocating Caveats

Trump gestures from a podium against a backdrop of rally attendees wearing red.
Donald Trump at Wednesday’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

On Wednesday night, Donald Trump’s spree of racism directed at four progressive congresswomen escalated into a “send her back” MAGA-rally chant directed at Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who came to the U.S. as a Somali refugee at age 12. On Thursday, some GOP congressmen said that they felt Trump and the rally crowd in Greenville, North Carolina, had gone too far—sort of.

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger:

North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker:

And Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer:

I didn’t watch the rally last night, but there’s no place for that kind of talk. I don’t agree with it … [But] there’s not a racist bone in this president’s body. What he was trying to say, he said wrong. What he was trying to say is that if you don’t appreciate this country, you don’t have to be here. That goes for every one of us. That has nothing to do with your race, your gender, your family history. It has to do with respecting and loving your country.

There’s a pattern here: Admit that it’s not great that a frenzied crowd of white people is demanding that a black U.S. citizen and democratically elected congresswoman be “sent back” to Africa, but then make sure to say that she and her three high-profile colleagues have also “disgusted” you because they don’t “appreciate” or “respect” the United States, an accusation for which you don’t/can’t cite any particular things they’ve actually done because the allegations of anti-Americanism leveled against Omar are strained out-of-context smears and the ones against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib aren’t based on anything at all except the fact that they’re liberal women who aren’t white. Such a lack of patriotism on their part, being born like that!

Also note that Reps. Kinzinger and Walker, like right-wing pundit Hugh Hewitt and Sen. Mitt Romney, are criticizing the chant and/or the crowd that produced it, not Trump. As if in shouted form, the idea of sending Omar “back” somewhere means something different than it did when the president first typed it into his phone! (As I was writing this post, Trump himself adopted this approach to responsibility-evading, telling reporters that he “was not happy” with the chant.)

Credit, sort of, to Republican Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell, who in this Politico piece both condemns the chant and discusses Trump’s responsibility for it … except that he also implies that, by comparison, the 2016 “Lock her up” chants about putting Hillary Clinton in jail were acceptable and innocuous. So close!