At a Thursday press conference at the White House, April Ryan, Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, asked the president about the alleged assault, but he offered just a short response.
“That I can tell you is horrible,” he said. “I’ve seen it. Last night. It’s horrible. Doesn’t get worse.”
View Trump’s comments on Smollett below.
The president did not address police reports that Smollett, who is gay, told them his attackers shouted “racist and homophobic slurs.” Similarly, he didn’t address the claims that his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” had been cited by the attackers during the assault.
Instead, Trump used the question to delve into a discussion about immigration from Mexico and to make a renewed call for a wall to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“What I think is the worst sin of all is the fact that we’re allowing people to come into this country and sell drugs and human traffic and do all of these horrible things,” the president said. “If we had the simplicity of a well-constructed, beautiful barrier or wall, they wouldn’t be able to come into our country.”
“That, to me, is the great sin,” he added.
Prior to Thursday, the White House had been criticized for staying silent on Smollett’s attack.
A number of top Democrats ― including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden ― had voiced their support for Smollett on social media shortly after the news broke.
He’s slated to return to work Saturday for a previously scheduled concert in Los Angeles.