‘Only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement. Only in the Panhandle.’
That’s how President Donald Trump responded on Wednesday night at a Panama City Beach, Fla., rally to a suggestion from one of his supporters that migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. should be shot.
No admonishment. No attempt to quiet the cheers. Just a folksy observation and a chuckle that played well with the adoring crowd.
Before the “shoot ’em” interruption rang out, Trump had been talking about — not endorsing — the idea of armed border-patrol agents. “When you have 15,000 people marching up — and you have hundreds and hundreds of people — and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great — and don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that.”
Watch the video:
And here’s someone from the crowd explaining what happened:
“They screamed shoot em’ ... They were referring to the immigrants.”
One Trump supporter tells me she heard someone in the crowd shout “shoot em’”.
— Rachel Scott (@rachelvscott)
The rally took place just days after a police report surfaced describing a militia member on the border talking about going “back to Hitler days” with his approach to the migrants. “Why are we just apprehending them and not lining them up and shooting them?” that militia participant said, according to several reports.
As for Trump’s response Wednesday, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub summed up the criticism on social media:
The president, who spent the day defying the other two branches of government, thinks it's hilarious that a member of the crowd suggested murdering families fleeing violence. The hate-fueled mob of "fine people" surrounding him explode into uproarious laughter and falsetto hoots. https://t.co/UkHZKQnnSP
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub)
Matt Wolking, Trump’s deputy director of communications, responded to the growing backlash on Twitter TWTR, +0.54% :
Trump said: "Don't forget, we don't let [border security agents] & we can't let them use weapons, we can't. Other countries do, but we can't. I would never let them do that. But how do you stop these [caravans of migrants with a couple agents]? You can't." pic.twitter.com/yhz15s5MRI
— Matt Wolking (@MattWolking)