President Donald Trump on Thursday distanced himself from supporters who chanted "send her back" at his campaign rally in North Carolina after the president criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn).
Speaking with reporters in the Oval Office, Trump was asked why he didn't ask his supporters to stop the chant.
"Well, number one, I think I did, I started speaking very quickly," Trump said. "I disagree with it, by the way, but it was quite a chant."
President Donald Trump denounces the “send her back" chant: “I disagree with it… I felt a little bit badly about it… I was not happy with it, I disagree with it"
This is an excellent move by @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/vwFYMPc69J
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 18, 2019
"I felt a little bit badly about it," the president added. "I was not happy with it. I disagree with it."
During the Wednesday evening rally in Greenville, N.C., the crowd erupted into chants of "send her back" after the president accused Omar, a Muslim Somali immigrant, of laughing at Americans who say "Al-Qaeda" in a menacing tone and of herself tacitly supporting the terrorist group by refusing to condemn them.
"Omar laughed that Americans speak of Al-Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that, 'you don't say "America" with this intensity,'" Trump said to boos and jeers from the audience. "You say Al-Qaeda makes you proud, you don't speak that way about America."
As he continued to criticize Omar, the crowd erupted into chants of "send her back."
The chant has been condemned by several Republican officials, while other GOP leaders are defending the president. Asked about the incident Thursday, House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the president "didn't join in" and criticized the media for trying to hold Trump accountable for actions taken by his large crowd.
"The president didn't join in," Kevin McCarthy said when asked if Trump should have stopped the "send her back" chants targeting Ilhan Omar last night.
"You want to try to hold him accountable for something in a big audience?" he continued. "I think that's an unfair position" pic.twitter.com/yfUHPIfzVU
— POLITICO (@politico) July 18, 2019
This controversy follows widespread criticism and accusations of racism against President Trump for weekend tweets suggesting that progressive Democratic congresswomen, including Omar, should "go back" to the countries they "originally came from." Trump denied that his tweets were racist and insisted that "Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel, and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said."