Trump Sends New Mixed Signals on ‘Send Her Back’ Chant

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Trump on Saturday extended the debate over a chant of “send her back!” at his campaign rally in North Carolina this week when he retweeted a right-wing British commentator with a long history of anti-Muslim remarks, including a call for a “final solution,” that has drawn repeated outrage and condemnation.

Sending fresh mixed signals about his view of the chant directed at a Democratic lawmaker, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Mr. Trump shared video of the episode posted by the commentator, Katie Hopkins, who has also said “Islam disgusts me” and appeared to blame a Jewish leader’s pro-migrant work for a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year.

Ms. Hopkins was celebrating the moment in Greenville, N.C., on Wednesday, suggesting that the crowd’s chant could be a new slogan for Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. “Send her back is the new lock her up,” she wrote, referring to a refrain from the 2016 campaign directed at Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

“Well done to #TeamTrump,” she added.

Mr. Trump, who has shifted his account of how he responded to the chant about Ms. Omar, posted Ms. Hopkins’s tweet on his own feed while adding commentary that placed some distance between himself and his supporters that night in Greenville.

“As you can see, I did nothing to lead people on, nor was I particularly happy with their chant. Just a very big and patriotic crowd. They love the USA!” Mr. Trump wrote early Saturday.

The chant followed Mr. Trump’s attack on Ms. Omar and three of her fellow Democratic congresswomen of color — Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — in which the president called on the lawmakers to “go back” to their countries. All of them are American citizens, and all but Ms. Omar, a Somali refugee, were born in the United States.

A day after the Greenville rally, Mr. Trump, under pressure from congressional Republicans and even his own daughter, falsely claimed that he had tried to interrupt the chant, something clearly disproved by the video. Speaking to reporters on Friday, he declined an opportunity to criticize the chant, calling his supporters “incredible patriots” and saying he was unhappy that Ms. Omar “can hate our country.”

It is unclear whether Mr. Trump was aware of the background of Ms. Hopkins, who is a notorious right-wing agitator and former columnist for The Daily Mail whose attacks on Muslims in particular have largely exiled her from the mainstream news media. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump has often amplified, through retweets, the voices of white nationalists, fierce critics of Islam, conspiracy theorists and other activists and commentators from the far-right fringe. In May, Mr. Trump retweeted a conspiracy-theory account under the handle Deep State Exposed — whose Twitter profile claims 10 retweets by the president in all — that declared: “The ‘elite’ proclaim America must submit to Islam or else!!! #Trump2020.” That month he also retweeted a message ending with an A-O.K. emoji, which has become a symbol of the white nationalist movement.

After a terrorist attack in May 2017 at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, Ms. Hopkins tweeted, “We need a final solution Manchester.” Soon after that, she left a job as a talk-show host with LBC radio in London.

After a Tunisian man living in France killed 86 people in 2016 by driving a truck through a crowd in Nice, France, Ms. Hopkins incited another backlash by calling for mass deportations of Muslims. “I am not Islamophobic,” she wrote. “Islam disgusts me. This is entirely rational.”

After the mass shooting last year at the Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 people dead, Ms. Hopkins suggested that the killer, who expressed fury online over a Jewish charity’s support for Muslim immigrants, had been provoked.

“Look to the Chief Rabbi and his support for mass migration across the Med,” she wrote. “There you will find your truths.”

It was unclear to whom Ms Hopkins was referring, but Britain’s most senior rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, has advocated welcoming immigrants from south of the Mediterranean Sea.

In response to an online uproar Saturday over the president’s retweet of her post, Ms. Hopkins followed up with another message.

“Call me what you wish. Islamophobe. Bigot. Racist. Vile. It matters not,” she wrote. “What matters is the fight back for our Christian culture we desperately need to defend.”

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