Republicans Are Kind of, Sort of Uncomfortable With Trump’s “Send Her Back” Rally

But don’t expect many to condemn his racism.

Richard Ellis/ZUMA

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President Donald Trump’s racist tirade against four Democratic congresswomen of color—an attack he has since defended and escalated—has prompted scant condemnation from within the Republican Party. “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox & Friends Monday, echoing the president’s incendiary remarks. He later suggested that the president should “aim higher” with his rhetoric.

“The president’s not a racist,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at his weekly press conference, where he encouraged “everyone” to “tone down” the rhetoric.

But will Trump’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina—where the president and his supporters took their bigoted attacks on Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar to appalling new levels—prove to be a bit too much for conservatives? At one point during Trump’s speech Wednesday night, the audience began chanting “send her back” in reference to Omar, apparently demanding that an American be stripped of her citizenship and returned Somalia, the country she escaped as a child during a civil war.

Trump visibly enjoyed the moment, which, as Mother Jones noted, strikingly resembled the 2016 Trump campaign’s “lock her up” chant. (Notably, once in office, Trump did indeed take steps to encourage the prosecution of Hillary Clinton.)

Soon after Wednesday’s rally finished, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said that he “struggled” through the chant, suggesting awkwardly that the “phrasing” was “painful to our friends in the minority communities.” Still, he took the opportunity to launch his own attack on Omar. “Her history, words, and actions reveal her great disdain for both America and Israel,” Walker wrote on Twitter.

The next morning on Fox & Friends, multiple hosts attempted to emphasize that it was Trump’s supporters—not Trump—who initiated the chant. “On their own, yes, it was unsolicited,” Ainsley Earhardt said. Later on the show, conservative commentator Guy Benson went further. “I wasn’t a fan of some of the people chanting ‘send her back’ about Ilhan Omar, about a US citizen,” Benson said. “That’s not a great look for him.”

Host Brian Kilmeade, meanwhile, worried that the “send her back” moment would serve as fodder for liberals and the media to attack the president and ignore his achievements. “It gave CNN and MSNBC something to focus on, as opposed to a raucous speech that not any of the 24 could have possibly done,” he said.

Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Thursday, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Emmer said that there was “no place” for the “send her back” rhetoric. But he quickly reiterated Trump’s assertion this from earlier week that the president does not have a “racist bone” in his body.

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