With an assist from one of his fans, President Donald Trump turned the idea of shooting migrants and asylum seekers who try to cross the southern border into a punchline during his campaign speech on Wednesday evening in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Referring to border agents who deal with undocumented border crossers, Trump brought up the possibility of using deadly force, but quickly ruled out the idea, saying he “would never do that.”
“And don’t forget — we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons. We can’t,” Trump said. “Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? You can’t. There’s—”
Before Trump could finish his thought, a woman in the audience yelled out. While it was unclear exactly what she said during television coverage of the event, numerous eyewitnesses reported she said, “Shoot them!”
Trump apparently found the suggestion amusing. He gestured at the person who yelled and said, “That’s only in the Panhandle, you can get away with that statement. Only in the Panhandle!”
Trump muses about shooting undocumented immigrants but says he wouldn't do it pic.twitter.com/2UWXIvvRad— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 9, 2019
Trump’s latest rally came just a day after Ken Klippenstein of the Young Turks published information from a Freedom of Information Act request indicating that a border militia member said of migrants, “Why are we just apprehending them and not lining them up and shooting them. ... We have to go back to Hitler days and put them all in a gas chamber.”
Trump may have laughed off the suggestion at his rally, but he has earnestly raised the possibility of shooting migrants in the past. During a news conference in November, he said of clashes along the border, “I will tell you this, anybody throwing stones, rocks ... we will consider that a firearm, because there’s not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock.” Trump’s comments on that occasion were widely criticized, and he tried to walk them back the next day.
Trump’s latest rally was an ugly scene
Trump also explicitly mocked asylum seekers and their lawyers, who he ominously claimed are “paid by somebody that’s not exactly friendly to this crowd.”
He pushed a conspiracy theory about migrants representing an “invasion” of the country — the same notion that motivated a gunman to open fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October, killing 11. He suggested, without evidence, that migrants avoid crossing the border at ports of entry because they have women tied up in their cars.
Donald Trump thinks migrants aren't using ports of entry because they have women tied up in their cars. Yes, I know this doesn't make any sense so don't @ me pic.twitter.com/4ogBHhuylu— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) May 9, 2019
Trump also spread his now-familiar lie about abortion — that Democrats and health care providers support legislation that would legalize the murder of babies.
In short, the president’s 2020 campaign is shaping up to be extremely ugly. And his fans mostly continue to eat it up with resounding “lock her up!” chants and shouted comments that only reinforce Trump’s darkest instincts.