Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Thomas Homan on Wednesday backed up President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE’s “animals” characterization of the MS-13 gang, calling Trump's controversial description “kind.”
During the president’s roundtable discussion in New York addressing immigration loopholes, Homan praised Trump for his positions on border security and weighed in on the criticism Trump received last week.
“I know you’ve been taking a hit on your comments about animals and MS-13, but I think you’re being kind. Animals kill for survival, MS-13 kills for sport,” Homan, who has been overseeing the deportation crackdown under the Trump administration, told the president.
Trump hit back at critics who said using the term "animals" was inappropriate and doubled down on his use of the word during Wednesday's roundtable discussion.
"I called them animals the other day and I was met with rebuke," Trump said. "They said, 'These are people.' These are not people, these are animals and we have to be very, very tough."
The president first drew backlash for the remark during a separate roundtable at the White House last week, where he was responding to a California official asking about MS-13 gang members.
The official, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, had expressed frustration over how the state’s "sanctuary city" laws have limited the ability of local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws, specifically in regards to the MS-13 gang.
“These aren’t people. These are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a rate that’s never happened before," Trump replied.
But some initial coverage of Trump's remarks inaccurately portrayed his "animals" comment as a reference to immigrants more broadly, instead of MS-13 gang members.
The Associated Press deleted a tweet regarding Trump's characterization of MS-13 members. The news agency said that in the tweet "it wasn't made clear that he was speaking after a comment about gang members."
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had also said Trump was owed an apology from any news organization that misreported him calling immigrants "animals" when he was referring to MS-13 gang members.