Donald Trump is attempting to distance himself from racist chants from his supporters after he criticised a Democratic congresswoman and said she should “go back to where she came from”.
Speaking in the Oval Office on Thursday, the US president claimed he tried to stop the “send her back” chant, which came after he recited a litany of complaints about Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who fled to the US as a child with her family from Somalia.
Videos show the president pausing his remarks, appearing to drink in the uproar and not admonishing his supporters as they chanted.
Trump allowed the chant to go on for about 13 seconds without telling the crowd to stop.
“I was not happy with it,” Trump said a day later as some prominent Republicans criticised the chant at the president’s re-election event.
He said he “would certainly try” to stop the chant should it happen again at another rally.
So far, no Republican politicians are directly taking on Trump over the episode.
At the campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump tore into four congresswomen who last weekend he tweeted should return to their native countries if they “hate America”.
Of the four, who strongly oppose many of Trump’s policies, one is black, one is Hispanic and two are Muslim. All are American citizens with three born there.
Trump has also been criticising Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
His distancing comes after British broadcaster and Trump defender Piers Morgan condemned the US president over the rally chants on Thursday, claiming the event “bordered on fascism” and that the president’s rhetoric has now crossed the line to “overt racism”.