President Donald Trump initially tried to distance himself from a racially insensitive chant his supporters started against Muslim Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday evening, but on Friday he appeared to defend the crowd, which cried “send her back!” by calling his supporters “incredible patriots.”

The crowd’s cries came after Trump tweeted he wished for Omar and three other Democratic minority freshmen congresswomen to “go back” to the “crime-infested” countries they originally came from. Omar is a Somali refugee, but the other three women were born in the United States.

“Those people in North Carolina, that stadium was packed,” Trump told reporters at the Oval Office on Friday about the rally. “It was a record crowd and I could’ve filled it 10 times, as you know. Those are incredible people, those are incredible patriots. But I’m unhappy when a congresswoman goes and says, ‘I’m going to be the president’s nightmare.’ She’s going to be the president’s nightmare. She’s lucky to be where she is, let me tell you. And the things she has said are a disgrace to our country.”



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Trump’s comments came as he was surrounded by Apollo 11 astronauts, who visited the White House in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing.

Trump and many other Republicans have blasted Omar for her comments against Israel, calling the Minnesota Democrats’ rhetoric anti-Semitic.

Many reporters and other people were quick to draw comparisons to Trump’s controversial response to the alt-right rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017. At the time, the president famously called the Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists who stormed the town “very fine people.” The alt-right people had been carrying torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Several white nationalists praised Trump for his comment at the time, and they again lauded him for this month’s xenophobic tweet against the four Democratic congresswomen.

Trump also complained on Twitter that the liberal news media devoted so much attention to his supporters’ “send her back” chants but did not condemn Omar for her remarks about Israel and Jews.

Trump also responded to a reporter’s question about the backlash surrounding his tweet about the four Democratic women by saying he isn’t worried about the accusations against him of racism and of emboldening white supremacists because “many people agree with me.”

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