U.S. President Donald Trump is reusing an insulting claim from the beginning of his presidential race.
“Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened. Everybody said, oh, he was so tough. I used the word rape,” Trump said at a town hall on taxes Thursday afternoon.
Trump was in West Virginia to showcase the benefits of Republican tax cuts, but he threw out his prepared remarks and took a detour to talk about his tough immigration and trade plans.
Since Sunday, Trump has been verbally attacking Mexican immigration to the U.S., border security and a caravan event, which is an annual campaign to highlight migrants’ rights and help them seek asylum.
In the speech, he appeared to connect the caravan to women who are raped.
“Yesterday it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before,” he said.
There were no statistics given to back up his claims.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley clarified and told reporters that Trump wasn’t talking about the caravan but rather about extreme victimization of those making the journey north with smugglers in general.
The comments come as Trump has been calling for more military action at the Mexico-U.S. border. After being unable to get the U.S. Congress or Mexico to pay for his promised border wall, he called for an immediate deployment of the National Guard to the border.
Mexican lawmakers condemned Trump’s rhetoric, describing the president’s decision this week to send troops to the border as “one more insult.”
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On June 16, 2015, Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidential race – which is where he first publicly called Mexican immigrants “rapists.”
“When do we beat Mexico at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they’re beating us economically, they are not our friend believe me,” he said at the time.
“The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you, they’re not sending you. They’re sending people who have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”
The comments were met with anger at the time.
*with files from the Associated Press