GOP Rep. Mark Walker (N.C.) received swift backlash on Twitter Thursday for his purported attempt to denounce racist remarks aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) by saying he “struggled” with them.
The congressman addressed President Donald Trump’s Wednesday night campaign rally in North Carolina, at which the president’s supporters chanted “Send her back!” referencing Omar, a black Muslim American congresswoman originally from Somalia who came to the U.S. as a child.
Walker tweeted that he “struggled” with the racist chant, but only after noting the chanting happened for a “brief” moment. He also deflected attention away from the issue by accusing the congresswoman of being anti-Semitic and unpatriotic in the same tweet.
“Though it was brief, I struggled with the ‘send her back’ chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar,” he wrote. “Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.”
Though it was brief, I struggled with the “send her back” chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar. Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.— Rep. Mark Walker (@RepMarkWalker) July 18, 2019
“Pathetic,” one Twitter user wrote in part in response to Walker’s tweet.
“Empty, hollow words when, in the same sentence, you blast her for hating America and Israel,” wrote another. “Neither of which are true. So stop lying. This is one of the weakest, most pathetic attempts to stand against racism. Feel embarrassed when you read it back later.”
Other Twitter users joined in to criticize Walker for his response to the racist chant:
You struggled? How cute. She will get (more) death threats as a result of last night. Random people will be threatened, beaten and possibly killed because of hatred fomented by the President of the US. But you "struggled".— Portia McGonagal of Winterfell (@PortiaMcGonagal) July 18, 2019
There is so much privilege and arrogance in that one word. He "briefly" thought about whether her life has value. He "briefly" thought whether citizens who disagree with me are worthy of protection. He "briefly" decided to put decency before party. And then he failed.— Portia McGonagal of Winterfell (@PortiaMcGonagal) July 18, 2019
You disgust me! I bet she’s more beloved by the people in her district than you are by the people in yours. She isn’t there to please you, or the other racist rednecks in that crowd. She represents HER district and they duly elected her. Go to hell.— Pam Keith (@PamKeithFL) July 18, 2019
Why can’t you just condemn it instead of having to try and get a jab in? What is wrong with you? Oh, you’re in Trump’s cult. Got it.— Scott Dworkin (@funder) July 18, 2019
As long as you very briefly struggled with it before letting partisanship win out over principle.— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) July 18, 2019
That’s some struggle, your struggle. You should write a book about your struggle. But what would we call it— Adam Weinstein (@AdamWeinstein) July 18, 2019
Democrats and Republicans have criticized and accused Omar of peddling “anti-Semitic tropes” over her past comments about pro-Israel lobbying efforts — though some Democratic elected officials have publicly defended the freshman congresswoman.
Trump and other GOP lawmakers have routinely targeted Omar in the media by bolstering the belief that the congresswoman is anti-Semitic and unpatriotic among their base.
Omar’s office said in a statement in April that the progressive lawmaker received an increase in death threats after the president tweeted a misleading and out-of-context video showing her speaking about the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
On Wednesday night, Trump promoted those similar attacks on Omar.
You may shoot me with your words,— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 18, 2019
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
-Maya Angelou https://t.co/46jcXSXF0B
Days prior, the president unleashed a racist tirade on Twitter against Omar and other fellow members of “The Squad”: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
The president didn’t include their names in the tweet, but told the progressive lawmakers of color to “go back” to other countries “from which they came.”
Trump has since tried to distance himself from the racist “Send her back!” chant he inspired at Wednesday night’s rally. On Thursday, he told reporters at the Oval Office that he disagreed with the chant, and that he “felt a little bit badly about it.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.