Donald Trump is facing a backlash for repeating a remark at a political rally on Saturday where he said undocumented immigrants to the United States are “poisoning the blood of our country”.
The former US president’s comments were the latest example of his campaign rhetoric that seemed to go beyond the lies and exaggerations that are a trademark of his stump speeches and instead go into territory of outright extremism or racism. In November he was widely condemned for calling his opponents “vermin”, language that echoed that used historically by dictators and authoritarians.
Trump, who is the overwhelming favorite to be the Republican nominee for the 2024 race for the White House, made the comments at a rally in Durham, New Hampshire, attended by several thousand supporters. He added that immigrants were coming to the US from Asia and Africa in addition to South America. “All over the world they are pouring into our country,” he said.
The White House hit back, saying that Joe Biden believes “our leaders have a responsibility to bring the country together around our shared values.”
“Echoing the grotesque rhetoric of fascists and violent white supremacists and threatening to oppress those who disagree with the government are dangerous attacks on the dignity and rights of all Americans, on our democracy, and on public safety,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.
Trump’s comments come days after he warned that if he is re-elected next year he would act on immigration like a “dictator” – but only on the first day of his term. He has since floated the idea of sending potentially “hundreds of thousands” of US troops to secure the US-Mexico border, build a network of immigrant detention camps, and “begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history”.
“He’s disgusting,” former New Jersey governor and Republican presidential contender Chris Christie told CNN Sunday. “He’s dog-whistling to Americans who feel under stress and strain from the economy and conflicts around the world,” Christie said. “He’s dog-whistling to blame it on people from areas that don’t look like us.”
Christie, who has emerged as Trump’s most outspoken counter-puncher on the Republican side, accused Republican politicians of being “robot true-believers” to Trump’s messaging, describing him as a “poison on our political system” who, predicted, would be convicted of crimes “worthy of jail this spring and that’s why he’s getting crazier every day”.
On CNN Christie accused leading Republican nomination rival Nikki Haley of “enabling” Trump by saying he is fit to be president. “She’s part of the problem because she’s enabling him, but I’m saying it’s not okay to be saying these things.”
Former Republican speaker of the house Paul Ryan called Trump an “authoritarian narcissist”.
Denunciation of Trump’s comments come as the Biden administration attempts to secure increased military aid for Ukraine and Israel – packages that are now hooked to a political compromise on immigration controls. Progressives have warned that they will not support additional aid packages if the issues are linked.
Trump’s comments also come as he is expected to easily win in Iowa’s vital first in the nation caucus next month, according to NBC News. But the latest CBS polls suggests he may face stronger opposition in New Hampshire in February, where he is running at 44% to Haley’s 29% among Republican voters.
In a slew of recent polls Trump has also been ahead of Joe Biden nationally and in many key battleground states. That has led to widespread concern that Trump could return to the Oval Office and speculation that he would deeply erode or dismantle US democracy.
Against the backdrop of Trump’s “poison” comments, the White House issued a statement Sunday on the 80th anniversary of the repeal of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which had imposed a 10-year immigration ban on Chinese laborers.
That law, Biden said, had “weaponized our immigration system to discriminate against an entire ethnic group” and had been followed by further discrimination against Europeans and Asian groups.
Biden noted that despite progress, “hate never goes away. It only hides”, adding pointedly: “Today, there are those who still demonize immigrants and fan the flames of intolerance. It’s wrong.”
Asked for comment by Reuters on Saturday, Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung, did not directly address the candidate’s inflammatory rhetoric which had not reportedly been included in Trump’s scripted remarks.
Cheung, who has previously dismissed criticism of Trump’s language as “nonsensical”, turned instead to the controversy over how US colleges are managing campus protests, and accused the media and academia had given “safe haven for dangerous antisemitic and pro-Hamas rhetoric that is both dangerous and alarming”.
Source: The Guardian