SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Democratic White House hopeful Beto O’Rouke said Thursday that some of President Trump’s inflammatory remarks on immigration are reminiscent of language used in Nazi Germany.
Speaking at a town hall meeting at a college here in a heavily conservative enclave in the far western corner of Iowa, O’Rourke criticized “the rhetoric of a president who not only describes immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’ but as ‘animals’ and ‘an infestation.’”
“Now, I might expect someone to describe another human being as ‘an infestation’ in the Third Reich. I would not expect it in the United States of America,” the former congressman from Texas added, drawing an enthusiastic response from a crowd of about 150 people, including dozens of young people.
In his presidential announcement speech in 2015, Trump famously referred to some Mexicans crossing the U.S. border as “rapists” and as “bringing crime.”
At a White House event last year, Trump described immigrants as “animals,” later clarifying that he was referring to members of the MS-13 gang, most of whose members are from Central America.
Trump also went on Twitter last year to decry what he termed an “infestation” of certain parts of the United States by MS-13. And he later tweeted that Democrats “want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.”
Speaking to reporters here after the event, O’Rourke doubled down on his comparison of Trump’s rhetoric to Nazi Germany when asked if it was consistent with his call to elevate the dialogue in the campaign.
“If we don’t call out racism, certainly at the highest levels of power, in this position of trust that the president enjoys, then we are going to continue to get its consequences,” O’Rourke said. “Silence is complicity in what this administration is doing, so let’s call it out. Let’s also define a better future for this country, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do in this campaign.”
In his remarks to reporters, O’Rourke also criticized the Trump administration's policy of family separations at the southern border and its travel ban aimed at several majority-Muslim countries, as well as Trump’s comments following a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
In the aftermath of a deadly clash between attendees and protesters, Trump said that there were “some very fine people” on both sides.
“You draw your own conclusions, but this is not something that I expected to hear the president of the United States of America ever say,” O’Rourke said.
On the campaign trail, O’Rourke rarely criticizes Trump by name, but he frequently criticizes his immigration policies and the language he uses to talk about the issue.