WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump Friday defended the crowd at his North Carolina campaign rally who days earlier chanted taunts of "send her back" against Somali-born lawmaker Ilhan Omar.
Trump described the supporters at the Greenville, N.C. rally on Wednesday as "incredible people" and "incredible patriots," a day after he disavowed the chants that were criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Trump has attacked Omar in recent days along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. The four freshman lawmakers – all women of color – are known as the "Squad."
The chant at the North Carolina rally echoed a tweet Trump posted on Sunday in which he said Omar and the three other members of the Squad should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."
Trump said this week that he tried to stop the chant but video of the rally shows he stepped back from the lectern and allowed the crowd to continue the refrain nearly a dozen times.
Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen who arrived in the United States as a refugee at age 12. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were all born in the United States and are U.S. citizens.
In his Friday comments, Trump said Omar was "lucky to be where she is."
He described the North Carolina stadium as "packed" and added that he could have filled it even more with "10 times" as many supporters.
Trump spoke on the issue while taking questions following an Oval Office ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump defends rally crowd as 'patriots' despite chants