- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2018

President Trump stood by his description of MS-13 gang members as “animals” and scolded reporters Thursday for twisting his words to suggest he’d applied that term to all illegal immigrants.

Explaining comments he’d made a day before, Mr. Trump said he was responding to a California sheriff who’s said sanctuary policies sometimes even protected MS-13 gang members from being deported. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” Mr. Trump replied.

That drew a chorus of objections from congressional Democrats and immigrant-rights groups who insisted the comment slandered all illegal immigrants — a charge the president fiercely refuted.

“You know I’m referring to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in and I was talking about the MS-13. And if you look a little bit further on in the tape you’ll see that,” Mr. Trump told a reporter who prodded him on the matter Thursday. “So I’m actually surprised that you’re asking this question ‘cause most people got it right.”

He added: “I refer to them as animals and guess what, I always will.”

The comments further inflamed the already heated debate over illegal immigration, with immigrant-rights activists leaping to lecture the president.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Mr. Trump was betraying scripture.

“When the president of the United States says about undocumented immigrants, ‘These aren’t people, these are animals,’ you have to wonder — does he not believe in the spark of divinity?” she said. “Calling people animals is not a good thing.”

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, a leading California-based organization, said Mr. Trump’s “racist” remark demeaned all immigrants.

“Only in the twisted world of President Trump would any other human be described as an animal,” said Angelica Salas, the group’s executive director. “One can have a difference of opinion about immigration and immigrants, but Americans will not stand that in their name a whole group of people continue to be demonized, criminalized, and deprived of dignity and humanity by the holder of the highest office in the land.”

The White House said the outrage was misplaced — and wondered why so many of the president’s opponents were mounting what appeared to be a defense of MS-13.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the word “animal” was too good for the types of crimes MS-13 members have been accused of.

“It took an animal to stab a man a hundred times and decapitate him and rip his heart out,” she said, referring to a reported MS-13 attack.

She added, “Frankly, I think that the term ‘animal’ doesn’t go far enough, and I think that the president should continue to use his platform and everything he can do under the law to stop these types of horrible, horrible, disgusting people.”

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