U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger said he was “disgusted” with a crowd’s chant of “send her back” at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally Wednesday night in Greenville, N.C.
Targeting four minority Democratic congresswomen – the self-described “squad” – Trump told the crowd: “Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down. They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave.’”
Trump’s jabs were aimed at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the U.S. except for Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family. The freshman lawmakers have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump.
Taking the legislators on one at a time, Trump ticked through a laundry list of what he deemed offensive comments by each woman.
Omar came under the harshest criticism, drawing a chant from the crowd of “Send her back! Send her back!”
Kinzinger offered up a nonspecific criticism of what he called “the extreme left” before adding his thoughts on the Trump crowd’s chant.
“I deeply disagree with the extreme left & have been disgusted by their tone,” Kinzinger, R-Channahon, tweeted Thursday morning. “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.”
Omar responded Wednesday night with a series of tweets, including one quoting Maya Angelou’s defiant poem, “Still I Rise,” with the words “You may shoot me with your words ... But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
“I am where I belong, at the people’s house, and you’re just gonna have to deal!” she wrote in another.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump said he was unhappy with his supporters chanting “send her back.”
Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump claimed he tried to stop the chant. Video shows the president pausing his remarks, appearing to drink in the uproar and not admonishing his supporters as they chanted.
“I was not happy with it,” Trump said a day later when some prominent Republicans criticized the chant at the president’s re-election event. He said he “would certainly try” to stop the chant should it return at a subsequent rally.
Trump set off a firestorm Sunday when he tweeted: “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly ...
“... and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how....”
“... it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
The Democratic-led House Tuesday voted, 240-187, in favor of condemning Trump’s comments – four of them Republicans. The resolution carries no legal repercussions.
Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who voted “no,” said his Democratic colleagues “continued to sow this chaos for political points.” The congressman said in an earlier statement that Trump’s tweets were wrong and divisive, adding “we as a nation have to demand better from our elected officials, on both sides of the aisle.”
Kinzinger expanded on the reasoning behind his vote and his thoughts on the president’s tweets during WCMY 1430’s morning show Thursday, saying he believes the Democrats could’ve earned Republican support on the resolution.
“There were a lot of us that disagreed with tone of the tweet. And really the tone of politics,” Kinzinger said.
He pointed to the resolution’s headline: “Trump’s racist tweet.”
“I think there’s really room to argue whether the tweet was racist or just inappropriate. Also in House rules … you cannot call the president a racist ... To say the president’s tweet was racist … I mean everything’s being called racist nowadays. I think it was an inappropriate tweet, I don’t think it was necessarily racist.”
Aside from violating House rules, Kinzinger said the resolution was forced through the process.
“We hold decorum on the floor; if that breaks down, I really do fear for the future.”
He said the biggest untold story is that lawmakers do get along personally, but on both sides of the aisle, it’s become about winning.
“It’s all about extracting revenge,” he said. “Eventually there has to be an understanding on both sides that you can’t win everything; politics is not zero sum …
“I think Americans are fatigued, my district is fatigued; they’re tired of us being Hollywood.”
However, Kinzinger doesn’t believe all is lost. “I think we can always walk it back. ... If I wasn’t optimistic, I wouldn’t be doing this. It starts with people demanding more of their congressmen and legislators.”
Trump expanded on his criticisms in Greenville.
Among his complaints against Tlaib, Trump correctly reported that she had referred to the president by the “F-word,” saying that, “That’s not nice, even for me.”
Trump himself had unloaded a vulgarity earlier in his speech, denouncing the Russia probe of his campaign and administration as “b------t.”
As for Ocasio-Cortez, Trump fumbled over her name and said, “I don’t have time to go with three different names.” He then referred to her as just “Cortez” as he challenged her complaints about dire conditions at migrant detention centers at the border.
In a lighter moment, Trump wondered if Pressley was related to Elvis Presley, then pivoted to more serious points, claiming she thought people of color should “think the same.”
As for Omar, Trump unfurled a whole list of complaints, including a false accusation that she voiced pride in al-Qaida.
Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he’s “winning the political argument” and “winning it by a lot.”
“If people want to leave our country, they can. If they don’t want to love our country, if they don’t want to fight for our country, they can,” Trump said. “I’ll never change on that.”
The four minority Democratic freshmen have portrayed the Republican president as a bully who wants to “vilify” not only immigrants but all people of color. They say they are fighting for their priorities to lower health care costs and pass a Green New Deal addressing climate change while his thundering attacks are a distraction and tear at the core of American values.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report