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LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized President Donald Trump's comment that four Democratic lawmakers should “go back” to where he said they came from, and expressed solidarity with the women.
"People of very different nationalities have contributed to the strength of the American people, so these are ... comments that very much run counter to this firm impression that I have," Merkel said when she was asked about Trump’s statements at her annual summer news conference Friday. "This is something that contradicts the strength of America.”
Merkel, who is seen as one of the last bastions of European liberal democracy amid the rise of populism across the continent, said that she would distance herself "firmly from this" and that she feels solidarity with the women who were attacked.
Trump on Sunday said the progressive congresswomen should "go back" and try to fix the "crime infested places" they "originally came from" before telling the U.S. government how to handle its problems. Then, after his comments were denounced as racist, he doubled down.
Although he did not mention anyone by name in his tweets, he appeared to be referring to Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.
At a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday, a fired-up crowd shouted its approval of Trump’s attacks on Somali-born Omar, and her three colleagues, by chanting “Send her back!”
Merkel took a welcoming approach to the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, with Germany welcoming an estimated 1 million asylum-seekers in 2015. At times, more than 10,000 people were arriving daily in the country, which had a population of around 81 million.
She has faced backlash for her refugee policy and it has been widely blamed for the rise of the right-wing AfD, now the main opposition party in Germany's Parliament.
The German leader and Trump have clashed before over her immigration policy. In a 2018 tweet, the president falsely claimed that crime was rising in her country because of mass migration.