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Padma Lakshmi on Trump's handling of 'send her back' chant: 'It's Charlottesville 2.0'

Television host and activist Padma Lakshmi on Friday decried President Trump's treatment of the "send her back" chants targeting freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) at his rally this week, calling the president's handling of the situation "Charlottesville 2.0."

"During the chanting on Wednesday, Trump watched over the crowd, seemingly satisfied," Lakshmi wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post. "What followed, too, is now classic Trump - saying briefly that 'he didn't like it,' only to say later those very same chanters were 'incredible patriots.'"

"It's Charlottesville 2.0," she continued. "He has long been dog-whistling to white nationalists, and as he ramps up for 2020, that whistle has become a battle cry."

At Trump's rally in North Carolina, supporters chanted "send her back" as the president launched into a diatribe against Omar, one of four progressive congresswomen of color who Trump targeted in tweets last weekend.

Trump accused Omar of demeaning U.S. service members and minimizing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, saying "she looks down with contempt on the hard-working Americans saying that ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country."

"Those words, those hurtful, xenophobic, entitled words that I've heard all throughout my childhood, stabbed me right in the heart," Lakshmi wrote. "They echoed the unshakable feeling that most brown immigrants feel. Regardless of what we do, regardless of how much we assimilate and contribute, we are never truly American enough because our names sound funny, our skin isn't white, or our grandmothers live in a different country."

Trump has launched attacks at Omar and three other progressive, minority lawmakers - Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib - in what has become nearly a week-long feud, tweeting Sunday that the so-called "Squad" members should "go back" to their home countries, despite that all four being U.S. citizens. All were also born in the U.S. with the exception of Omar, who was born in Somalia and came to the U.S. as a refugee.

"It's hard for many white Americans to understand how hurtful the language the president used this week is to many of us," Lakshmi wrote. "The millions of Americans like me and Omar are right here where we belong in our country, and we aren't going anywhere."

Trump similarly came under fire in 2017 over his handling of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., scheduled to protest the city's plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The rally and subsequent counter-protest led to a woman's death, with the president later saying that there was "blame on both sides" for violence that led to the woman's death. At a press conference immediately after the violence, Trump had condemned the "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."