What we know about ‘send her back’ chants directed at Ilhan Omar
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s feud with The Squad, a group of four Democratic congresswomen of color, came to a head Wednesday evening when a “send her back” chant broke out at the president’s rally after he began talking about Rep. Ilhan Omar.
During a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump blasted the members of “The Sqaud” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, and Omar, D-Minn.
While he was riffing about Omar, chants of “send her back” erupted from the crowd several times. At one point, the president paused during his remarks for the chant, which lasted several seconds.
Omar immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia as a child and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
The president has since distanced himself from the chanting as Democrats came to Omar’s defense. And some Republicans have criticized the chant.
Here is what you need to know about the controversy:
How the chant happened
Trump on Sunday bashed The Squad in a series of tweets, saying that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All four congresswomen are Americans, with three being born in the U.S. except for Omar.
The president this week has repeatedly doubled down on his original comments, saying that if the lawmakers “hate” the U.S. so much, they should leave. Many Democrats, and some Republican lawmakers, have criticized Trump’s tweets as racist.
The House on Tuesday formally condemned Trump’s tweets as racist, with a 240-187 vote. More than two-thirds — 68% — of Americans said Trump’s tweets were offensive and “un-American,” according to a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll. However, 57% of Republicans say they agree with Trump’s “go back” tweets, with a third “strongly” agreeing with them.
More: Donald Trump blames supporters for ‘send her back’ taunts against black lawmaker
‘Still, like air, I’ll rise’: Ilhan Omar posts Maya Angelou poem in response to ‘send her back’ chant
Trump, once again, criticized The Squad during his rally Wednesday night. He listed off each one of the four progressive lawmakers by name.
When the president brought up Omar, the crowd booed.
Throughout the week, Trump has focused attention on Omar, targeting her several times, and falsely claiming she supports Al-Qaeda during recent remarks at the White House.
The president Wednesday night detailed past statements Omar had made, including comments she made about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks earlier this year during a speech to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She said: “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
Omar’s speech at the time was about how Muslims have been treated as “second-class citizens,” and how she believes the treatment of Muslims has gotten worse under Trump.
Fact check: Trump’s false claims about Rep. Ilhan Omar
Since then, Omar has been criticized for minimizing the terrorist attack.
“Obviously, and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds,” Trump asserted at the rally, as “send her back” chants began to slowly grow louder in the crowd.
“Send her back, send her back!” the crowd continued to chant for several seconds after Trump finished his rift.
The Minnesota Democrat, shortly after video and news of the chants spread, responded by quoting Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.”
Omar reacted to a tweet from former Barack Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, who criticized the moment as “one of the most chilling and horrifying things I’ve ever seen in politics.”
In a retweet, Omar quoted the opening of Angelou’s poem.
“You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. -Maya Angelou,” Omar wrote in a tweet.
Poll: Most Americans call Trump’s tweets targeting 4 congresswomen ‘un-American’
More: Outrage, expressions of support for Rep. Ilhan Omar after ‘send her back’ chant at Trump rally
Calling Trump a “fascist,” on Thursday afternoon, however, Omar gave a more critical response to the chanting.
“We have said this president is racist. We have condemned his racist remarks. I believe he is fascist,” she told reporters on Capitol Hill.
She went on to criticize how she believes Trump and his supporters have hindered civil debate in the country. In addition, she noted that she is not scared for her safety, but instead for the safety of “people who share my identity.”
“This is not about me,” Omar added. “This is about fighting for what this country should be.”
Many rushed to support Omar
Democrats have since defended Omar and denounced the chants.
Rep. Ted Lieu, who recently wrote an op-ed about his experience of being told to “go back” to another country, questioned whether the chants would have happened if Omar was white.
“.@realDonaldTrump & @GOP enablers have legitimized the racist chant of “send her back” to an American citizen. If @IlhanMN was white they would not use that racist trope,” Lieu wrote in a tweet. “If this horrifies you then vote, donate & organize like never before. The soul of our country is at stake.”
Lieu, who immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan and is — like Omar — a naturalized U.S. citizen, in a separate tweet said Trump and the Republican Party “don’t get to send US citizens back because they criticize Trump.”
“Immigrants are no less American than any other American,” he continued. “We are all Americans.”
Many Democratic presidential candidates were also quick to come to Omar’s defense.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted Wednesday night that he stands with Omar.
“Trump is stoking the most despicable and disturbing currents in our society. And that very hatred and racism fuels him,” Sanders wrote. “We must fight together to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country.”
More: House votes to condemn Trump’s racist tweets with support from only 4 Republicans
More: Trump slams ‘squad’ during North Carolina rally as crowd chants ‘send her back’
In a fundraising email to supporters Thursday, Sanders said he was having dinner with Omar when the two heard about the chants. He included a photo of the two having dinner in the email. Sanders also asked those on his email list to “split a $2.70 contribution between” Omar’s re-election campaign and his presidential campaign.
“To my surprise, Ilhan was pretty unfazed,” Sanders also wrote in the email. “Sadly, as she told me, she has been dealing with this kind of hatred and racism for a long time.”
Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted after the chants: “It’s vile. It’s cowardly. It’s xenophobic. It’s racist. It defiles the office of the President. And I won’t share it here. It’s time to get Trump out of office and unite the country.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden wrote in a thread on Twitter that the U.S. has heard language that the president is using “throughout our history, but it has no place in America in 2019.”
“Four days ago, the President of the United States suggested that four elected members of Congress, all women of color, ought to ‘go back’ to the countries ‘from which they came.” And every day since he has repeated this ugly, racist refrain,” Biden tweeted.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, noted the “send her back” chants sounded similar to the frequent “lock her up” chants usually heard during Trump’s rallies. The latter chant was usually in reference to Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“On some level ‘send her back’ sounds similar to ‘lock her up,” Schatz tweeted. “But here is how it is worse to my ears. Now they don’t even have the false pretext of alleged corrupt behavior. They are just telling an American with whom they disagree to go back to Africa.”
Republicans denounce the chanting
Some Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators also condemned the chant, but still shared their disagreement with the rhetoric and the policies of progressive Democrats, including Omar.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., tweeted Thursday that he woke up “disgusted” by the chant, which he described as “ugly.”
“I deeply disagree with the extreme left & have been disgusted by their tone,” Kinzinger wrote. “I woke up today equally disgusted – chants like ‘send her back’ are ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.”
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., who heads the GOP campaign operation in the House, told reporters Thursday that “there’s no place for that kind of that kind of talk.” However, he has since defended Trump, despite the outcry over Trump’s tweets.
“There’s not a racist bone in this president’s body,” Emmer said during s breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “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.”
‘Disgusted.’: How Republicans are reacting to ‘send her back’ chants at Donald Trump’s rally
More: Ilhan Omar calls Tucker Carlson ‘racist fool’ after he says she proves ‘immigration has become dangerous’
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., tweeted that he “struggled” with the chant.
“Though it was brief, I struggled with the ‘send her back’ chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar,” he wrote. “Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.”
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt called the chant “nativist” and “terrible.”
“‘Send her back’ is a nativist, terrible chant. Also electoral suicide,” he said. “There’re more than 400,000 naturalized residents in PA, w/ 200,000 more in Michigan. @realdonaldTrump won PA by and MI by 11K, PA by 44K. #VoteHerOut –fine. #SendHerBack –nativist. Catholics, btw, remember.”
Trump has blamed the audience
The president on Thursday distanced himself from the chant while speaking to reporters.
“I disagree with it,” he said in the Oval Office. “I wasn’t happy with that message.”
Trump also suggested to reporters that they return to North Carolina to ask supporters why they began the chant during Wednesday’s rally.
“I didn’t say that,” Trump said, referring to the chant. “They did.”
More: Meghan McCain calls out Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner: ‘Where are you in this?’
More: Lindsey Graham on criticism of Trump: ‘I don’t remember John McCain having to go through this crap’
There were two instances during which the North Carolina crowd began chanting “send her back.” The president did not stop the first time, and continued on with his speech. However, during a second round of the chants, Trump paused for several seconds as the chant grew louder.
But the president claims he did stop the chant.
“I think I did – I started speaking very quickly,” he told reporters.
Contributing: William Cummings, John Fritze, David Jackson and Michael Collins
Like what you’re reading?: Download the USA TODAY app for more