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White House

What They’re Not Telling You about the Infamous ‘Shoot Them’ Trump Rally

President Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., July 17, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

When a Trump moment has entered legend, it usually pays to look back and see what he actually said. Trump’s joking a couple of months ago with a Florida rally-goer who shouted “shoot them” is one of those moments. It’s now being pointed to as evidence of Trump’s culpability in the El Paso shooting.

I went back and watched that part of the rally (about 101:30 in this video). What no one notes is that immediately prior to that moment, Trump was talking about a migrant caravan heading north, and he said of border patrol agents, “Don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that.”

Then, shortly afterward, the guy yells, and Trump smiles and shakes his head and says, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.” Clearly, this is not meant as an endorsement of the statement, but a good-natured way to acknowledge its outrageousness.

Trump then goes on to continue to plug changing the asylum rules and building the wall as the means of addressing the border crisis.

You can criticize how Trump handled the rally-goer’s shout and certainly object to his rhetorical extravagances generally. I’d probably agree with many of the criticisms of how he talks and tweets. But the idea that this shouted interruption, in the midst of a long Trump riff about how we need to make lawful changes to address the border crisis, somehow constitutes presidential incitement to mass murder is manifestly absurd.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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