(FOX 9) - U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar told supporters welcoming her at Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport Thursday that she was President Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare” after Trump backers chanted “send her back” during the president’s campaign speech one day earlier.
The president targeted Omar, a U.S. citizen, for three minutes during a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday evening, using a mix of falsehoods, half-truths and Omar’s own controversial statements about Israel. He did not try to stop the chant, but said Thursday that he felt “a little badly” about it.
Trump has made the freshman congresswoman one of his main targets as he plays to his base at the outset of his 2020 re-election campaign. Omar was born in Somalia and moved to Minnesota as a teenager.
In response, Omar called the president a “fascist” who was trying to divide the country based on race and partisanship.
“When I said I was the president’s nightmare, well, you’re watching it now,” Omar told a cheering group of supporters at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, “because his nightmare is seeing a Somali immigrant refugee rise to Congress.”
Trump on Thursday blamed his supporters for the chant and said, “I was not happy with it.” Asked why he did not stop the chant, the president told reporters at the White House, “I think I did. I started speaking very quickly.”
Video indicates the president waited 13 seconds as the chanting intensified before speaking again.
In her Minneapolis district, a group of supporters led the welcome rally for Omar at the airport. Omar was scheduled to attend a local Medicare town hall later in the evening.
“It (the chant) made me feel sick in my stomach,” said Kenza Hadj-Moussa, a spokeswoman for the group TakeAction Minnesota, who attended the rally. “This is bigger than just the president attacking our congresswoman. This is about all of us as Minnesotans, the values that we share, and direction that we can go in our country.”
Republicans sought to distance themselves from the chant while defending the president against accusations of racism.
U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign arm, was among those walking that line.
“There’s no place for that kind of talk (the chant). I don’t agree with it,” Emmer told reporters at an event in Washington. But when asked about accusations that Trump is racist, Emmer said, “I think that’s manufactured. There’s not a racist bone in this president’s body.”
Emmer later said Omar was part of an “army of socialists” along with three other congresswomen of color, whom Trump has previously tweeted ought to “go back” to their countries.
Omar told reporters in Washington earlier Thursday that the issue was not about her, but the president.
“I believe he is a fascist,” Omar told reporters in Washington on Thursday. “If I was wearing a MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat -- if there was a Somali person wearing a MAGA hat -- they would not be deported. But because I criticize the president, I should be deported?”