GREENSBORO, N.C. — At Donald Trump's first political rally since the terrorist attack at an Orlando nightclub this weekend, he continued to accuse presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and President Obama of putting the interests of Muslim immigrants ahead of other Americans.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said at a rally Tuesday night that he believes "lifetime immigrants from the Middle East and many more from Muslim countries outside of the Middle East” are to blame for domestic terrorism in the United States. He warned that more attacks like the massacre in Orlando could happen in the future.
"A number of these immigrants have hostile attitudes toward women, toward gays, and people of different faiths. And that includes everybody. They're hostile,” Trump told the crowd of several thousand that cheered loudly. “If you're not with them, it's like forget it.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Obama dismissed Trump’s repeated demands for him to use the term “radical Islam” when speaking about the Orlando shootings and other attacks.
“Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away,” Obama said. “This is a political distraction.”
Trump responded at the rally by accusing Obama of disliking him more than the Orlando attacker.
"I watched President Obama today, and he was more angry at me than he was at the shooter, and many people said that," Trump said. “That's the kind of anger he should have for the shooter and these killers that shouldn't be here.”
Trump has made tough rhetoric on immigration a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, calling for a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the country and the mass deportation of undocumented Mexican immigrants. During a foreign policy address Monday in New Hampshire, Trump blamed American Muslims for failing to prevent radicalization and report crimes. He echoed those comments Tuesday and was loudly applauded by his mostly white audience that ranged in age and included businessmen and women who arrived straight from the office, groups of teenagers, young families and a number of retirees wearing American-flag shirts or accessories.
"I loved his honesty," said Janet Lambert, who lives in Gretna, Va., after the rally. "He's intelligent enough to know there's a problem with radical Islam."
Clyde Jones, who lives outside of Greensboro, agreed: "We're going to turn this country around and quit giving it to the foreigners."
Trump partially read from a prepared statement when talking about the mass shooting in Orlando, the worst in American history. “Once again we’ve seen that political correctness is deadly,” he said.
“And just so you understand: I have many Muslim friends,” Trump added at one point. “There doesn’t seem to be assimilation. We don’t know what’s going on.”
Throughout the speech, Trump repeatedly referenced gay men and women, part of a recent embrace of gay rights in the wake of the Orlando massacre. While such comments were warmly received at Trump's policy speech in New Hampshire on Monday, the response was less boisterous on Tuesday in North Carolina, where lawmakers earlier this year passed legislation dictating which restrooms transgender individuals can use. Most of Trump's loudest applause lines were tied to his attacks on Clinton.
“She’s no friend of women and she’s no friend of LGBT Americans. No friend, believe me. How can you be a friend when you take many, many millions…” he said, trailing off, but suggesting he was talking about donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation. “How can you be a friend when these countries are oppressive to LGBT, when they’re oppressive to everybody?”
Trump also bragged to the audience about recently revoking press credentials for reporters at The Washington Post, whom he accused of being dishonest and blasted Monday for a headline he said was misleading. The story was about remarks he made, in two television interviews, in which he seemed to suggest that President Obama sympathized with terrorists.
“They’re so dishonest, we just took the press credentials away. I love it! We just took the press credentials away from the dishonest Washington Post," Trump said, as the crowd roared with laughter.
A Post reporter in Greensboro on Tuesday was denied a press credential but was able to enter the rally with the general public and watch Trump's remarks from the stands.
Helen Marshburn, a rally-goer who lives in Greensboro and was previously a supporter of Sen. Rand Paul, said Trump struck a different tone in his Tuesday night speech.
"He can be bombastic, but he wasn't," she said. "It was a good combination of compassion and toughness."
Johnson reported from Greensboro. DelReal reported from Washington. Ken Otterbourg also contributed to this report.