Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pushed back on reporters who grilled him on President Trump’s purported racism Thursday, pointing out that the president’s criticisms of the “Squad” are rooted in their ideas and rhetoric – not race.
A cluster of reporters brought up the “send her back” chant that erupted at the president’s rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Wednesday night.
“What message does it send to other naturalized American citizens that a predominately white crowd is chanting, ‘Send her back’?” a reporter asked.
Graham brought up Trump’s original tweets, which implored members of the “Squad” to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” and “come back and show us how it is done.”
“I think the president’s playing on the 1968 ‘Love it or leave it,'” Graham said.
“I’ve said it before, that if you’re a Somali refugee wearing a MAGA hat, he doesn’t want to send you back. You’d probably have dinner at the White House. What does that tell me? It’s about their criticism,” he continued:
LINDSEY GRAHAM blames Democrats when asked about “send her back” chants:
"No, I don't think it's racist to say. … I don't think a Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back. If you're a racist you want everybody from Somalia to go back" pic.twitter.com/gELFKhehu4
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) July 18, 2019
The president believes that what they’re doing is over the top. We’re not running concentration camps. So when you start accusing people of running concentration camps, who work for the United States government, you’re going to be met with some fiery responses. I don’t like it. I’m not going around telling anyone to leave the country who’s an American citizen. To a naturalized citizen, this is your home as much as mine.
Still, reporters grilled Graham, asking if the phrase “send her back” is racist in nature.
“No. I don’t think it’s racist to say. Was it racist to say, ‘Love it or leave it’?” he asked before reiterating that Trump’s critiques were not based in race, but criticisms.
“I don’t think – a Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back. If you’re a racist, you want everybody from Somalia to go back because they’re black or they’re Muslim,” Graham explained.
“That’s not what this is about to me. What this is about to me, is these four congressmen, in their own way, have been incredibly provocative. The first moment she was introduced to the Congress, Tlaib said we should ‘impeach the MF,'” Graham continued.
While Graham said he wishes Trump would “talk about the policies and not the personality,” he reminded reporters that he does not believe Trump is a racist, even though he did not seem to be a personal fan of the tweet or chant.
“I’m not saying, ‘Send her back.’ I’m saying as to President Trump, the bottom line is that if you embrace his policies, it doesn’t matter where you come from. He probably likes you,” he added.