President Trump on Thursday disavowed the “send her back” chant that erupted at his rally in North Carolina the night before, falsely claiming that he “started speaking very quickly” when it began.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday that he was “not happy with it—I disagree with it,” despite heaping praise on his supporters hours earlier.
A reporter asked Trump if he is concerned that the chant puts Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN)—a U.S. citizen who moved from Somalia as a child—in danger, to which the president said he “wasn’t happy” with the message. He then quickly pivoted to the event’s high turnout.
“I have tremendous support. I wasn’t happy with that message they gave last night,” Trump responded. “That was a packed arena. We could have sold ten of those arenas last night. We had thousands and thousands of people and we had thousands and thousands of people that wanted to come and we said please don’t come. ... But I was not happy when I heard that chant.”
When the reporter pressed the president as to why he thinks his supporters would chant those specific words, Trump was at a loss. “You would have to ask them. What I would suggest, I was not happy with it, but what I would suggest, you go there, go to North Carolina, and you ask the people why did they say that. But that’s what they said,” Trump said.
The reporter then pressed further, asking the president if he would stop his supporters if they chanted “send her back” again. Trump responded: “I didn’t like that they did it and I started speaking very quickly.... I started very quickly. And I think you know that. Maybe you’re giving me too much credit.”
In reality, the president took a notable pause after the crowd began chanting, standing silent for at least 12 seconds as the chanting grew.
Trump’s disavowal of the chant on Thursday is whiplash-inducing, as he showered praise on his supporters just the night before. Directly following the Wednesday rally, Trump tweeted: “Just returned to the White House from the Great State of North Carolina. What a crowd, and what great people. The enthusiasm blows away our rivals on the Radical Left. 2020 will be a big year for the Republican Party!”
Days earlier, Trump went on a racist Twitter tirade that targeted four congresswoman of color, including Rep. Omar, writing that they should go back to their own countries and “fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The tirade appeared to have inspired Trump supporters to adopt the new chant, which is reminiscent of the “lock her up” chant targeting Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Trump has previously claimed to also dislike the “lock her up” chant, though it can be still be heard at his rallies today.