Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a onetime Trump critic who has become one of the president’s most vocal defenders on Capitol Hill, defended President Trump’s racist remarks on Thursday telling four congresswomen of color to “go back” to whence they came.
“Here’s what think: I think the President is playing on the 1968 ‘Love it or Leave it,’ [Slogan}” Graham told reporters at the Capitol, referring a late 1960s slogan that targeted Vietnam war protesters. “I’ve said before that if you’re a Somali refugee wearing a MAGA hat, he doesn’t want to send you back. You’d probably have dinner at the White House.”
“What does that tell me? It is about the criticism and the critic, that the president believes that what they’re doing is over the top,” Graham continued. “We’re not running concentration camps. So when you start accusing people of running concentration camps who work for the United States government, you’re gonna be met with some pretty fiery responses.”
“I’m not going around telling anybody to leave the country who’s an American citizen,” Graham said. “To a naturalized citizen, this is your home as much as mine.”
A report pressed Graham: “Isn’t racist though to say ‘send her back’?”
“A Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back,” Graham responded. “If you’re a racist, you want everybody from Somalia to go back, because they’re black or they’re Muslim.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said Graham was essentially arguing that a Somali person wearing a MAGA hat would not be deported, “but because I criticize the president, I should be deported.”
“I want to remind people that this is what this president and his supporters have turned our country [into] — that is supposed to be a country where we allow democratic debate and dissent to take place,” she said. “And so, this is not about me. This is about us fighting for what this country truly should be and what it deserves to be.”