Trump denies 'nationalist' has racial undertones: 'I've never even heard that'

Trump denies 'nationalist' has racial undertones: 'I've never even heard that'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE said Tuesday that he's "proud" to be a nationalist and denied that the descriptor is weighted with any racial undertones.

"I’ve never even heard that. I cannot imagine that," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if his comments in Houston that he's a nationalist imply that he's a white nationalist.

"I’m somebody that loves our country," he added.

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Trump cast his use of the term nationalist along the lines of international trade and patriotism, and not as something akin to white nationalism.

He complained that "immensely wealthy" countries, such as Saudi Arabia, do not reimburse the U.S. for military protection; that other nations do not adequately contribute to global alliances like NATO; and that certain countries have put up unfair trade barriers that harm the U.S.

"All I want for our country is to be treated well, to be treated with respect," Trump said. "For many years other countries that are allies of ours, so-called allies, they have not treated our country fairly, so in that sense I am absolutely a nationalist and I’m proud of it."

Trump declared at a Monday night rally in Houston that he identifies as a nationalist and railed against "globalists" who care more about the well-being of the world. 

The crowd broke into a chant of "U.S.A" in response.

White nationalists helped organize protests in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017.

While the protests were outwardly intended to demonstrate against the removal of Confederate statues, those attending the rallies included neo-Nazis and other racist groups, some of whom yelled anti-Semitic and racist statements.

The protests eventually became violent, and a young woman was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. Trump defended some of the Charlottesville rally-goers as "very fine people" at the time.

Trump said Tuesday that the word "nationalist" should be used more often.

"It’s a word that hasn’t been used too much. People use it, but I’m very proud, I think it should be brought back," he said.

"I’m somebody that wants to help other countries of the world but we have to take care of our country," the president added.

Some of Trump’s allies, such as former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, have embraced the term, despite its association with far-right groups. Advocates have argued it represents an agenda that prioritizes America over other countries.

Critics have pointed to the Trump administration's hostile rhetoric toward immigrants and refugees, and the president's threats to withdraw from global alliances like NATO, as pitfalls of a "nationalist" agenda.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenAndrew Cuomo: Biden has best chance at 'main goal' of beating Trump Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds Buttigieg responds to accusation of pushing a 'hate hoax' about Pence MORE has alluded to the rise of “phony nationalism” in criticism of Trump, while the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private MORE (R-Ariz.) lamented in a speech last year that the U.S. was receding from the world stage due to "half-baked, spurious nationalism."