GOP lawmakers speak out against 'send her back' chants

House Republicans are speaking out against the “send her back” chant that erupted at President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE's rally Wednesday night against progressive Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Progressive group leader describes why Warren would be better than Sanders Omar offers sneak peek at her forthcoming memoir MORE (D-Minn.).

A number of GOP lawmakers said they were not comfortable with the rhetoric, and Republican leadership in the lower chamber said they discussed their concerns during a breakfast meeting with Vice President Pence on Thursday.

House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerRepublicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Top GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat House passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum MORE (R-N.C.) maintained there was a difference between the chant and the “lock her up” calls against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to start new podcast Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs MORE at rallies during the 2016 cycle, but said he wants to ensure that “send them back” does not become the narrative for the GOP during the 2020 cycle.

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“I'm offended by ‘send her back’ or ‘send them back’ — they are American citizens. That's not what the president, I believe his intentions,” Walker, who was at the Trump rally in North Carolina the previous night, told reporters on Thursday.

“But I can't sit here as a former pastor who's worked in refugee camps, who cherishes the wonderful minority communities there are that have supported us and continue to support us without saying, 'That's offensive.'"

“It's not the right way for Americans to talk to other Americans, period,” he said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Lawmakers race to pass emergency coronavirus funding Warren introduces bill to redirect wall money to coronavirus MORE (R-Calif.) said the chants “have no place in this country” but also told reporters he believes early criticism over the president’s response to the chants during the rally were unwarranted.

“He talked about the love of this country and said if you don't love this country you can leave — that a fundamental difference. That's what the president is talking about,” McCarthy said at a press conference. 

“This is an issue about ideology. This is an issue that when you talk about one of these individuals, who introduced a bill, introduced to support of boycott, divestiture and sanctions against Israel ... in this bill that she introduced it even talks about the boycott when it came to Nazis in Germany. This is the differences that we have, this is what this debate and fight is about."

House Republicans weighed in shortly before Trump distanced himself from the "send her back" chant from his supporters, telling reporters early Thursday afternoon he disagreed with the audience reaction when he mentioned Omar during the rally.

“I was not happy with it,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I disagree with it.”

The chant came following days of controversy over Trump's initial tweets attacking Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez cuts census ad with Lin-Manuel Miranda Bill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Industry group warns fracking ban could cost 7.5M jobs in US MORE (N.Y.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Omar offers sneak peek at her forthcoming memoir Sanders wins endorsement of top Muslim group MORE (Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Bill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Progressive Democrat confronts Rep. Cuellar at parade, calls for him to debate her: report MORE (Mass.), four minority Democratic congresswomen who entered office earlier this year.

Trump told the lawmakers to "go back" where they came from, comments widely panned by Democrats and some Republicans as racist.

All four of the lawmakers are U.S. citizens and only Omar, who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia, was born outside the country. 

“With all due respect, everybody in that chamber came from someplace else unless they were 100 percent Native American — maybe there was an Eastern Band, you know, Cherokee there since it was North Carolina — and that's where they're at. But other than that person, everybody's from someplace else. So why would you ever use an epithet like that?” Walker said Thursday.

The GOP lawmaker told reporters that around a third of the crowd participated in the chant at the rally Wednesday night, but noted that Trump didn’t “throw gasoline on it.” 

“I just think it's something that we want to address early before that comes ... even if it's a small percentage, because there's so much good to talk about our policies," he said.

"Let's focus on what's been said and the actions of Rep. Omar or others as opposed to some kind of chant that, in my opinion, is unpatriotic,” he said.