The president of the European Council said Thursday he was happy to be in Canada where citizens don't say things like "Send him back" — a clear reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's recent tweets that told ethnically diverse congresswomen to "go back" to their countries of origin rather than tell U.S. politicians how America should be governed.
"Dear Justin ... it is a pleasure to be in Montreal, the most European of Canadian cities. I really feel at home here, for many reasons, also because in Montreal I didn't hear anyone shouting, 'Send him back,'" Donald Tusk said at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after a Canada-European Union summit.
Tusk said he wasn't afraid to condemn Trump and his supporters despite the risk of offending the U.S. president and disrupting trading relations between America and the European bloc.
The quip came a day after a Trump rally in Greenville, N.C., where some of his followers chanted, "Send her back, send her back," after the president directed some of his attacks at Somalia-born Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who he has suggested should leave the U.S.
Trump has accused Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, of hating America and Israel. He has also accused her, without evidence, of being a sympathizer of al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
Tusk said while he didn't want to comment on the internal politics of the U.S. while standing alongside a Canadian leader, he said that the comments made by the president and his supporters were so deeply offensive he felt compelled to comment.
'Difficult to understand'
"I've been, for many years, one of the most pro-American politicians in Europe. It's difficult to understand some of those thoughts, words and sometimes if you feel that something is totally unacceptable you have to react despite business, despite interests. For me, values are much more important than trade, sorry, maybe I'm old fashioned but I will never change my opinion here," he said.
Speaking to reporters in the White House on Thursday, Trump disavowed the "send her back" calls from the North Carolina crowd.
"I disagree with it. I felt a little bit badly about it," Trump said. "I was not happy about it. I disagreed with it but, again, I didn't say that, they did. I was not happy when I heard that chant."
Trudeau again condemned Trump's racially charged rhetoric about Omar and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts.
"The comments made were hurtful, wrong and completely unacceptable. I want everyone in Canada to know that those comments are completely unacceptable and should not be allowed or encouraged in Canada," Trudeau said.
Yesterday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also said there is no place in society for comments such as the ones Trump has made about the four Democratic congresswomen.
Scheer said he believes people should be free to criticize their governments without having their backgrounds questioned or being told to leave the country.
Trump defended himself in the face of criticism Thursday saying he started speaking quickly after the chant began in an effort to shut down the raucous crowd.
However, video evidence of the rally shows otherwise; Trump stopped his speech and stood back from the podium for some 15 seconds as the cries grew louder.
Watch Trump's reaction to the chants at his rally:
Asked if he would stop his supporters from saying "send her back" at future rallies, Trump said, "I'd certainly try."
Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland, said Trudeau is a valuable ally in the fight against xenophobic populism, an ideology he said threatens to undermine the foundations of Western society. He said he considers Trudeau to be "Europe's best friend."
"In the unstable global setting we live in, it is reassuring the friendship between the EU and Canada is as stable as ever. Canada shares our vision of the world, our values and our objectives. We are both passionate believers in democracy, rule of law, human rights, solidarity among people and nations as well as rules-based international order," Tusk said.