CNN's Van Jones reacts to chants of "send her back" that a crowd made when President Donald Trump attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) during a rally in North Carolina.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: I want to bring in Van Jones, our CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT."
The president said today he didn't like that chant. He said, quote, "I was happy with it, I disagree with it but, again, I didn't say that, they did."
What do you make of how this all escalated last night?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE REDEMPTION PROJECT": First, last night was terrifying. To have the leader of the free world, the most powerful man in the world, to stand there and you have tens of thousands of people chanting, "send her back," focusing all that on an individual U.S. citizen, a lawmaker. It's terrifying, any leader in the world standing up on the stage like that, singling out a citizen would be terrifying, period.
We also have to remember, Ilhan Omar, in particular, someone who has been convicted for threatening her life. He's playing with a very dangerous kind of fire.
That said, I'm glad he's pulling back. He may lie about what he did, but if he's sending a signal now, he doesn't want to go down that road, that's a good thing.
CABRERA: Will that stop the chant?
CABRERA: I think back to "lock her up" and "build the wall."
JONES: Listen, if that particular chant becomes a part of this foundation of his campaign, that's dangerous for the whole country.
I don't understand why he does stuff like this.
Listen, he could run -- he has an economy he could talk about. He has achievements he could talk about. Instead, he goes the low road, the dirty road. He's scraping the bottom of the barrel and coming up with splinters and serving those up to the American people. It's dangerous and wrong.
For me, in particular, I don't think we've done as good a job as we could, explaining to people why this "send people back" is so painful.
You're a little kid in America, one of the things that happened to you on the school ground is "go back to Africa." It's the first time you realize you're not like every other kid. What are you talking about? I've never been to Africa. "Go back to Africa."
It's not just like a causal thing. When there's a hate crime, often, right before the shot is fired, right before the punch is thrown, "go back where you came from." This is very chilling stuff. This is very dangerous stuff.
The Republican Party, behind closed doors, must have been really, really -- I hope he keeps backing up off of this. If he doesn't, we're in big trouble.
CABRERA: This harkens back to other times in American history, this appeal to emotion rather than rational arguments. George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy.
CABRERA: But the president's supporters say this isn't about race. This is about policy.
JONES: I mean, it's just a lie. It's not true.
Listen, when you say, "go back to the crime-infested country that you came from," and three of the four people are from the United States of America, that is about race. It's worth saying over and over again. He never said that about Bernie Sanders. He's never said that about any white critic in the country. Including his own white self. Trump himself has been the biggest critic of the United States of anybody. Especially when Obama was president. Nobody would say to him, go back to where you came from. It wouldn't make sense.
Go back where you came from, only makes sense inside the logic of white nationalism, white supremacy. White people can criticize, Bernie can criticize, Trump can criticize. If you're a brown woman, you can't criticize. That is about race. You don't have to use a racial epithet or say the word black or Muslim or Latino, or whatever, for it to be about race in the context.
Here's the deal. I don't understand why he does stuff like this. When you have an economy this strong, when you have past stuff you're proud of, tax stuff, and foreign policy, run on that. What are you doing? Why are you -- you're going down the sewer, dragging stuff up for dinner. You don't have to do it. It's wrong to do it.
And if the Republican Party doesn't find a bigger backbone in public, you run the risk of the party of Lincoln becoming the party of Steve Bannon forever. And that is something that will hurt the entire country.
Democrats should be just as concerned about the Republicans going this way. Somebody told me --
CABRERA: President Trump says he thinks it's a winning strategy.
JONES: Listen, it would be a winning strategy in the short term for his presidential bid. It's a losing strategy for the country.
And also, I'm not sure. I think there's a silent majority of people who have been getting increasingly uncomfortable with what Trump is up to.
The question they're going to be asking is, can I keep this economic progress without this social regress. What Trump is basically doing is bringing the economy up but pulling society apart.
People say, is there someone who can keep the economy up but bring us back together. If the Democrats nominate someone on both counts, Trump's in trouble. And this strategy is going to be something he regrets.
CABRERA: Van Jones, as always, thank you.