WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump pushed back against controversy surrounding comments he made on Wednesday that some interpreted as him calling undocumented immigrants “animals.”
Speaking to reporters in the cabinet room Thursday, Trump said that he was only referring to members of the violent criminal gang MS-13.
“I’m referring and you know I’m referring to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in. I was talking about the MS-13. And if you look a little bit further on in the tape you’ll see that,” Trump said. “So I’m actually surprised that you’re asking this question ’cause most people got it right.”
During an meeting with California officials on immigrations Wednesday, Trump had an exchange with Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims that began with a reference to MS-13.
“There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it,” Mims said.
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country,” Trump replied. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
The comments were interpreted by some as a broader attack.
Immigrants are not “animals.” The president’s statement was deeply offensive and racist. Immigrants are our family and friends and they make significant contributions to our country.
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) May 17, 2018
Today the President of the United States referred to immigrants as “animals.” Intentionally dehumanizing an entire group of people is something that slave owners and nazis did. It’s the kind of hateful rhetoric that leads to hate crimes and genocides. pic.twitter.com/G2SnyN9CST
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 16, 2018
Murderers, rapists, and animals. This is how the President views undocumented immigrants. These degrading words are also how despots around the world dehumanize those they persecute.
The only protection? A vigilant citizenry and the rule of law. https://t.co/hSATf0OxCV
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) May 17, 2018