GOP Rep. Mark Walker (N.C.) received swift backlash on Twitter Thursday for his purported attempt to denounce racist remarks aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) by saying he “struggled” with them.
The congressman addressed President Donald Trump’s Wednesday night campaign rally in North Carolina, at which the president’s supporters chanted “Send her back!” referencing Omar, a black Muslim American congresswoman originally from Somalia who came to the U.S. as a child.
Walker tweeted that he “struggled” with the racist chant, but only after noting the chanting happened for a “brief” moment. He also deflected attention away from the issue by accusing the congresswoman of being anti-Semitic and unpatriotic in the same tweet.
“Though it was brief, I struggled with the ‘send her back’ chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar,” he wrote. “Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.”
“Pathetic,” one Twitter user wrote in part in response to Walker’s tweet.
“Empty, hollow words when, in the same sentence, you blast her for hating America and Israel,” wrote another. “Neither of which are true. So stop lying. This is one of the weakest, most pathetic attempts to stand against racism. Feel embarrassed when you read it back later.”
Other Twitter users joined in to criticize Walker for his response to the racist chant:
Democrats and Republicans have criticized and accused Omar of peddling “anti-Semitic tropes” over her past comments about pro-Israel lobbying efforts — though some Democratic elected officials have publicly defended the freshman congresswoman.
Trump and other GOP lawmakers have routinely targeted Omar in the media by bolstering the belief that the congresswoman is anti-Semitic and unpatriotic among their base.
Omar’s office said in a statement in April that the progressive lawmaker received an increase in death threats after the president tweeted a misleading and out-of-context video showing her speaking about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
On Wednesday night, Trump promoted those similar attacks on Omar.
Days prior, the president unleashed a racist tirade on Twitter against Omar and other fellow members of “The Squad”: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
The president didn’t include their names in the tweet, but told the progressive lawmakers of color to “go back” to other countries “from which they came.”
Trump has since tried to distance himself from the racist “Send her back!” chant he inspired at Wednesday night’s rally. On Thursday, he told reporters at the Oval Office that he disagreed with the chant, and that he “felt a little bit badly about it.”