Though President Donald Trump has faced criticism for his negative portrayal of immigrants since the day he announced his White House bid, he told a crowd at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania this week that his initial assessment was too lenient.
He specifically recalled his announcement more than three years ago in the lobby of Trump Tower.
At the time, he attracted both praise and scorn for his harsh characterization of Mexican immigrants.
“They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
As he revealed this week, Trump now believes that initial description was “peanuts” compared to what he claims are the actual rap sheets of immigrants and visa card holders in the United States.
Speaking to a crowd of supporters in Wilkes-Barre this week, Trump revisited his longstanding opposition to the distribution of some visas through a lottery system.
At that point, he included a flashback to the now-famous escalator ride with his wife, Melania, prior to making the June 2015 announcement.
“You know what a lottery is?” Trump asked. “You pick it out of a hat. Now, do you think that these countries, many of whom get aid from us, and they send, remember what I said? I hate to say it. Coming down that escalator, the beautiful first lady in the white dress. Coming down that escalator that big, big beautiful day when everybody said, ‘Oh, he’s just doing this for fun. He doesn’t really mean it.’ Man, if I don’t mean it I hope you tell me soon because it’s a lot of work.”
Trump then addressed the controversial content of that address, suggesting he did not go far enough in castigating immigrants as drug-trafficking rapists.
“But coming down the escalator and you remember what I said,” he said. “They’re sending, do you remember that? They’re sending, and I mentioned words. I won’t even mention them tonight because there’s a lot of young people here. But I mentioned words and everybody thought it was wonderful.”
The president said that “about two days later” critics began dissecting his speech.
“They said, ‘Did he say this? Did he say that?'” Trump said. “Guess what? What I said is peanuts compared to what turns out to be the truth. It’s peanuts.”
He transitioned back to his original point, promising to end the so-called visa lottery program.
As described by Trump, the typical recipient of such a visa is the kind of violent repeat offender a country would like to export.
“So we’re going to have not lottery where you pick it out,” Trump said. “Ladies and gentlemen, our first lottery winner. You know, they think we’re playing like a game show. Our first lottery winner, let’s see: He has seven convictions for death. He’s killed nine people. And we’re getting him the hell out of our country and giving them to the stupid politicians that have been running the United States for many years. And we’re going to send him up there because he just won the lottery. Congratulations.”
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