Trump Team and Supporters Say His 'Animal' Comment Taken Out of Context

May 17, 2018 - 9:06 am

(AP contributed to this story) — While railing against California for its so-called sanctuary immigration policies, President Donald Trump referred to some people who cross the border illegally as "animals" — drawing a sharp rebuke from many for harsh rhetoric from the left and leaving the right complaining the comment was taken out of context. 

Trump defended his comments Thursday saying: "I am referring to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in. I was talking about the MS-13 and if you look further under the tape you will see that." 

Trump's remark at a meeting with local leaders was in response to a complaint about MS-13 gang members, but left a sting with many people, regardless of its context. 

"We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in -- and we're stopping a lot of them," Trump said during the immigration roundtable after a sheriff commented about gangs. "You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., responded on Twitter to the president, saying, "When all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren't 'animals,' and these people aren't either."

Associated Press was forced to delete a tweet that implied the "animals" the president referred to wasn't specific to the MS-13 gang. 

Trump was joined at the Wednesday White House meeting by mayors, sheriffs and other local leaders from California who oppose the state's immigration policies and who applauded his administration's hard-line efforts.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump was owed an apology after the criticism about the comment. 

Conway retweeted CNN anchor Jake Tapper’s tweet outlining the context of the comment during the roundtable.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Here is the full context of President Trump’s “animals” comment during the immigration/sanctuary city roundtable, which came as a Sheriff was complaining about restrictions placed on ICE databases, and MS-13 gang members. <a href=""">"></a></p>&mdash; Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) <a href=""">">May 17, 2018</a></blockquote>
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During the session, Trump thanked the officials, saying they had "bravely resisted California's deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws." He claimed those laws are forcing "the release of illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, gang members and violent predators into your communities" and providing "safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth."

Brown responded on Twitter, writing that Trump "is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of CA."

The Democratic governor added: "Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed."

The discussion comes as the Trump administration is under fire for a new policy that is expected to increase the number of children separated from their parents when families cross the border illegally.

Nielsen on Tuesday defended the practice, telling a Senate committee that removing children from parents facing criminal charges happens "in the United States every day."

Associated Press writers Alan Fram in Washington, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.