GOP lawmakers are unsettled after a long week that included an intense presidential rally where thousands chanted “send her back” at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.
President Trump distanced himself from the chant on Thursday, saying it made him unhappy and that he disagreed with it.
But he also did not seek to quiet the chant when it happened on Wednesday night, and the crowd was clearly responding to Trump’s attacks on Omar and three other minority congresswomen. Earlier in the week had said they should go back to their home counties.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and now an elder statesman of the Senate, warned Thursday that the chants in North Carolina were “offensive” and would likely hurt his party’s image.
“I found the chanting and the chants to be offensive. Very unfortunate for my party but also for our country,” Romney lamented to reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had tried to defuse the uproar over Trump’s tweets over the weekend saying the four Democratic lawmakers should “go back” to where they came from.
“Lower all this incendiary rhetoric. Everyone should do it,” he said.
Other senators complained Trump’s controversial attacks and the media frenzy they caused has distracted from their efforts to highlight the strong economy and other issues.
Republican senators found themselves having to repeat the statements they had issued earlier in the week.
“I would like to see, as I’ve said before, the tone of the rhetoric in the country used by all just raise a level and create for a little bit more civilized discourse,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).
Others said they were sick of having to constantly respond to Trump’s behavior.
“I don’t want to regurgitate all the things that have been said. I try not to get too distracted by this or I won’t get anything else done,” said a senior Republican senator. “I don’t know why we feel we’ve got to wallow in it. We’ve got other bigger fish to fry.”
The president in his comments later on Thursday afternoon reiterated that he was not happy with the chant but said the Democratic lawmakers “have a big obligation and the obligation is to love your country.”