Republican polling leader Donald Trump, who launched his first successful presidential campaign by vilifying Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” is again making inflammatory attacks on foreigners a core campaign theme as he pledges militarized mass roundups and deportations on a scale never before attempted in this country.
The former president is plowing ahead with accusing immigrants of “poisoning the blood of our country” in the face of widespread public condemnation linking Trump’s phrase to the “contamination of the blood” concept articulated in Adolf Hitler’s antisemitic manifesto “Mein Kampf.” Trump has disputed that comparison while repeating and elaborating on his message in speeches, social media posts and interviews.
“They’re coming in from Asia, from Africa, from South America. They’re coming from all over the world,” Trump said in an interview Friday with the conservative broadcaster Hugh Hewitt. “We are poisoning our country. We’re poisoning the blood of our country. We have people coming in.”
Illegal border crossings have surged to a record of more than 10,000 per day, prompting U.S. authorities to shut down ports of entry. President Biden said Thursday that he spoke with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and would dispatch top U.S. officials to Mexico to meet about more enforcement.
Trump accused immigrants of being criminals, people suffering from mental illness and terrorists. He has also criticized them for speaking other languages. There are instances of people apprehended at the border with criminal records and whose names match the terrorist watch list. The overwhelming majority are people fleeing poverty or seeking asylum.
“We’re loading up our classes, our school classes, with children that don’t speak the language,” he said.
Trump’s language comes with specific campaign promises to carry out what he has called the “largest domestic deportation effort in American history,” including the use of the military. He has pledged to reimpose and expand policies from his first term, including a ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries and possibly his policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Adviser Stephen Miller, who is expected to serve in a second Trump White House, described to the New York Times a vision for mass detention and deportation camps.
Campaign officials have indicated that Trump will continue to emphasize immigration on the campaign trail, citing polls showing voters naming the border as a top concern and saying they trust Trump more on the issue than his rivals. He has also described immigration as an “invasion,” a term that Democrats and immigration advocates disputed.
“The economy and our nation are stronger when we’re tapped into the range of talents in this nation,” Biden said Wednesday, responding to Trump’s “blood” comments during a speech to the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce. His reelection campaign, seeking to frame the 2024 race as a choice between democracy and authoritarianism, has repeatedly likened Trump’s rhetoric to Hitler’s.
“Every time he says it, we are going to call it out,” campaign spokesman Michael Tyler said.
Asked directly by Hewitt to address “your critics [who] say that you are using Hitlerian language that was used to dehumanize Jews,” Trump reiterated his denial that he ever read “Mein Kampf.” A 1990 article reported that Trump’s first wife, Ivana, told her lawyer that Trump read a different book of Hitler’s speeches, called “My New Order.” Trump said at the time that he was given a copy of “Mein Kampf” by a Jewish friend. The 2022 biography “Confidence Man” by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman said the friend was not Jewish and the book was “My New Order.”
“I never knew that Hitler said it,” Trump told Hewitt on Friday. “I never read ‘Mein Kampf.’ … I know nothing about it. I’m not a student of Hitler. I never read his works. They say that he said something about blood. He didn’t say it the way I said it, either, by the way, it’s a very different kind of a statement. What I’m saying when I talk about people coming into our country is they are destroying our country.”
Trump’s word choice also drew comparisons to Hitler’s for describing internal enemies as “vermin” in a Veterans Day speech — a term he has not repeated since. The former president has talked since his 2016 campaign about wanting to forcibly deport millions of immigrants, emulating a 1950s enforcement targeting Mexican field workers, known as “Operation Wetback.”
“Echoing the grotesque rhetoric of fascists and violent white supremacists and threatening to oppress those who disagree with the government are dangerous attacks on the dignity and rights of all Americans on our democracy, and on public safety,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Sunday.
Trump on Friday denied that his language was racist by citing surveys on his support with Black and Latino Americans and referencing his actions as president to reduce criminal sentences, fund historically Black colleges and universities, and create economic development incentives through legislation championed by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
Trump frequently provokes outrage in a tactic that experts say serves to desensitize or confuse voters and portray his critics as overreacting. Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump Republican strategist whose Republican Accountability Project released a new ad attacking Trump as a wannabe dictator, said she cut Hitler from an earlier version because the comparison makes voters “roll their eyes.”
“When you start talking about Hitler, people immediately think of gas chambers, millions of people dying in a war of aggression and they say, ‘Well Trump is not Hitler,’” said Tim Naftali, a faculty scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. “That’s why I don’t use the Hitler analogy. What I talk about is how this is the language of dictators this is the language of authoritarianism, this is the language that undermines the Bill of Rights because it denies the basic idea that all men and women are equal. We can raise alarms without using the ‘H’ word.”
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.