Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) defended President Donald Trump’s character on Wednesday, arguing that the president’s recent vitriolic attacks on four congresswomen of color weren’t rooted in racism but simple narcissism.
Capitol Hill reporters Frank Thorp, from NBC News, and Jason Donner, from Fox News, tweeted a quote from Graham on Trump’s rhetoric.
“I really do believe that if you’re a Somali refugee who likes Trump, he’s not gonna say ‘Go back to Somalia,’” Graham said, according to both reporters. “A racist says ‘Go back to Somalia’ because you’re Somali or Muslim or whatever. That’s just the way he is. It’s more narcissism than anything else.”
According to Donner, Graham later added that Trump’s tweets were “probably not the best way to say it, those words have meaning in the past and I wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t tell any American citizen to go home because this is home.”
Trump launched a racist Twitter broadside against the four House Democrats ― Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) ― this weekend. Without referring to any of the women by name, he called them foreign-born (three were born in the U.S.) and told them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The president doubled down on that sentiment on Monday, telling reporters the four congresswomen “hate” the United States and suggesting they leave the country if they’re not happy.
While many have called Trump’s comments racist and xenophobic, Graham hasn’t spoken out directly against the president’s words. In 2015, Graham referred to Trump as a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” but in more recent years he has been a strong supporter of the president.
Besides his defense of Trump on Wednesday, Graham also defended the president in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Monday.
“We all know [Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel, they hate our own country. Calling guards along our border, calling Border Patrol agents concentration-camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of ‘doing it for the Benjamins.’ They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America,” he said.