WASHINGTON -- The words "send her back" briefly drowned out the President Donald Trump's speech in Greenville, North Carolina, Wednesday night, and quickly sent chills through Washington.
Trump carried his screed against Rep. Ilhan Omar from Twitter on to the stage of a campaign stop Wednesday night, prompting supporters to respond that he should "send her back" to the country she emigrated from as a child. The moment stoked fear about both the safety of the congresswoman and about the ramifications of the nation's most powerful leader inflaming racial and religious hatred.
The president's Democratic rivals rapidly condemned his diatribe and the crowd's approving chant as "racist," "vile" and "disturbing."
Omar, an outspoken progressive, has become a favorite target of Republicans. She made history last year as one of the first Muslim women elected to the House and the first sitting member of Congress to wear a hijab.
Omar stumbled early in her term when she tweeted that U.S. politicians fail to address human rights abuses by Israel because of the influence of the lobby AIPAC, tweeting "it's all about the Benjamins," prompting concerns from some lawmakers that she had fallen into an anti-Semitic trope.
But Trump's criticism of the congresswoman did not center on those words, instead veering into conspiracy. He accused her of sympathy with terrorists, a gross distortion of a 2013 interview and Islamophobic rhetoric used to tar other high-profile Muslim politicians.
Omar responded by sharing a picture of her on the House dais.
"I am where I belong, at the people's house and you're just gonna have to deal!" she wrote.
The rally represented a continuation of Trump's racist call for four first-term progressive members of Congress to "go back" to "the crime infested countries from which they came," which Republicans in the House voted against condemning Tuesday.
The president has repeatedly restated his view that their non-European ancestry should disqualify them from leveling criticism of American policies.