Vice President Mike Pence skipped an opportunity to strongly condemn racist “send her back” chants a crowd shouted during a rally for President Donald Trump last week, instead saying he “wasn’t pleased” with the rhetoric.
“The president wasn’t pleased about it,” Pence told CBS News’ Major Garrett in an interview for “The Takeout” podcast set to be released Tuesday. “Neither was I. The president’s been very clear about that.”
Garrett pressed Pence on whether he or Trump would tell supporters not to repeat the chant if it happened in the future.
“The president was very clear that he wasn’t happy about it, and that if it happened again, he might ― he might ― he’d make an effort to speak out about it,” Pence said.
“He will make an effort to speak out about it?” Garrett asked, to clarify.
“That’s what he’s already said,” Pence replied.
On Wednesday, the crowd at Trump’s Greenville, North Carolina, rally erupted into the chant after Trump began attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whom he accused of anti-Semitism. As shouting continued, Trump took a 13-second pause from his speech, silently allowing the crowd to go on.
In an effort to distance himself from the line the next day, Trump said he “was not happy with it” and “felt a little bit badly about it.”
On Friday, he made an about-face, praising his base as a group of “incredible patriots.”
The president’s attack on Omar started last week when Trump called out progressive Democratic congresswomen in a series of tweets. Though he didn’t name the legislators, it was clear Trump was referring to Omar along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. In his posts, Trump urged the lawmakers to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” All of the lawmakers are women of color. Three were born in the U.S., while Omar immigrated to the U.S. as a refugee when she was 12 years old.
Lawmakers have condemned the statements as xenophobic. But Pence speculated that there was major public support for the president’s sentiments.
“I think that millions of Americans share the president’s frustration about sitting members of Congress engaging in that kind of reckless rhetoric, whether it be anti-Semitic rhetoric, whether it be referring to border patrol agents as running concentration camps, and the president thought it was important to stand up to them, and I’m glad he did it.”
Legislators continued voicing their rebukes of Trump’s rhetoric on Sunday, including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who told ABC’s “This Week” that there is “no doubt” the president is a racist.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) doubled down on his own criticism of the president, charging that he’s “worse than a racist.”
“He is actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gain,” Booker said. “He is trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Omar immigrated to the U.S. at age 8. She immigrated at age 12.