White House blasts Musk’s ‘hideous’ antisemitic lie, advertisers pause on X

X CEO Elon Musk leaves a US Senate bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) Insight Forum at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 13, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 18 November 2023
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White House blasts Musk’s ‘hideous’ antisemitic lie, advertisers pause on X

  • Musk on Wednesday endorsed a post on X that falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user who referenced the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory was speaking “the actual truth”

WASHINGTON: The White House on Friday condemned Elon Musk’s endorsement of what it called a “hideous” antisemitic conspiracy theory on X, while major US companies including Walt Disney Co, Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal parent Comcast paused their advertisements on his social media site.
Musk on Wednesday agreed with a post on X that falsely claimed Jewish people were stoking hatred against white people, saying the user who referenced the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory was speaking “the actual truth.”
That conspiracy theory holds that Jewish people and leftists are engineering the ethnic and cultural replacement of white populations with non-white immigrants that will lead to a “white genocide.”
The White House accused Musk of an “abhorrent promotion of antisemitic and racist hate” that “runs against our core values as Americans.”
“It is unacceptable to repeat the hideous lie ... one month after the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said, referring to the Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Israel.
In addition to Disney, Warner Bros Discovery and Comcast, Lions Gate Entertainment and Paramount Global said on Friday they also were pausing their ads on X. Axios reported that Apple, the world’s largest company by market value, was also pausing its ads.
IBM on Thursday halted its advertising on X after a report found its ads were placed next to content promoting Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Media Matters said it found that corporate advertisements by IBM, Apple, Oracle and Comcast’s Xfinity were being placed alongside antisemitic content.
Advertisers have fled the site, formerly called Twitter, since Musk bought it in October 2022 and reduced content moderation, resulting in a sharp rise in hate speech on X, according to civil rights groups.
Representatives for Musk and X on Friday again declined to comment on his post.
“When it comes to this platform — X has also been extremely clear about our efforts to combat antisemitism and discrimination. There’s no place for it anywhere in the world — it’s ugly and wrong. Full stop,” X CEO Linda Yaccarino wrote on Thursday.
Antisemitism has been on the rise in recent years in the United States and worldwide. Following the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas after last month’s attack, antisemitic incidents in the United States rose by nearly 400 percent from the year-earlier period, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit organization that fights antisemitism.
Musk, chief executive of electric vehicle maker Tesla and founder of rocket company SpaceX, has blamed the Anti-Defamation League for the ongoing drop in advertisers, without offering any evidence.

 


Bangkok lab leads ‘halal science’ development as Thailand seeks to become industry hub

Researchers work at the Halal Science Center in Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok on Feb. 22, 2024. (AN photo)
Updated 5 sec ago
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Bangkok lab leads ‘halal science’ development as Thailand seeks to become industry hub

  • Thailand is seeking to become a regional halal hub, increase halal exports
  • Bangkok center in talks with SFDA to establish halal science lab in Saudi Arabia

BANGKOK: For the last two decades, Dr. Winai Dahlan has helmed the development of halal research initiatives in Buddhist-majority Thailand to ensure food safety standards that conform with Islamic laws. 

The country’s start in halal science began as an answer to increasing calls by Thai Muslims for scientific testing in halal food development in the late 1990s after the discovery of beef sausage products for Muslim consumers that were tainted with pork caused an uproar. 

The demands of Muslim consumers in the country, which make up about 5 percent of Thailand’s 66 million population, along with increased awareness of halal standards, led to the establishment of a halal research center at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. 

“When the Thailand policymakers realized the significance of the science … Chulalongkorn University (and) myself at that time … established a small laboratory in the Faculty of Allied Health Science,” Dahlan, who is the center’s director, told Arab News. 

That small lab eventually became a full-scale facility, with the government granting a budget for the public university to do so following controversies related to halal food products in the region.

“In that year, 2003, Thailand finally had the first halal laboratory.” 

The center, which operates under the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, is the only one of its kind in Thailand and has been dubbed the world’s first halal science institution. 

It developed the standardization known as HAL-Q, or the Halal Assurance, Liability-Quality System, which has been adopted to integrate halal standards into food safety and is used by more than 770 factories employing more than 200,000 people across the kingdom. 

Dahlan’s team had worked on the Shariah-compliant ICT Logistics Kontrol system, or SILK, an information technology system developed for the halal supply chain, logistics and traceability management that is also compatible with HAL-Q. 

They also developed the Halal Route app, which will soon be launched in Arabic and functions as a directory and review platform for Muslim travelers to easily find mosques and halal restaurants when visiting Thailand. 

The Halal Science Center’s leading role in the field also provides an economic opportunity for Thailand, at a time when the government is seeking to boost the country’s halal exports. 

“Thailand has great potential for becoming a regional halal hub because of its abundance of raw materials to produce halal food in response to the demands of many countries worldwide,” the Thai government’s public relations department said in a statement issued on Feb. 27. 

“Thailand also has great opportunities to increase its halal exports to both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.” 

Thai exports of halal food products reached around 217 billion baht ($6 billion) in the first 11 months of 2023, growing 2.6 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, with over 15,000 halal food producers in the country, according to official data. 

Many countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have set up strategies to tap into the thriving global halal market, which is estimated to be worth more than $7 trillion. 

But in Thailand, there is still a need to educate the private sector on halal-related matters, Dahlan said. 

“I think (this is) very important in order to boost up the total exports to Muslim countries … We still have room for expanding our product to the Middle East.” 

Dahlan has grown more optimistic with recent developments in Saudi-Thai relations, which were officially restored in 2022. 

“After that, it’s like (a) broken dam, water comes (out), big flood of Saudi tourists to Thailand … We have a very high expectation for the relationship, and also for the export,” Dahlan said. 

Since then, the center has taken part in the Thailand Mega Fair 2023 in Riyadh, during which Dahlan gave a lecture on the nation’s halal science development. He said the center is also in talks with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority about establishing a halal science laboratory in Saudi Arabia. 

“From the Thai side, especially for the Muslims in Thailand, they are so excited. We have been waiting for 32 years for the normal relationship between Thailand and Saudi Arabia.”


Shehbaz Sharif becomes prime minister of Pakistan, nation politically divided and in economic crisis

Updated 56 min 54 sec ago
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Shehbaz Sharif becomes prime minister of Pakistan, nation politically divided and in economic crisis

  • New PM will have to tackle tough opposition, maintain relations with army and fix security and financial problems
  • Lowering political temperatures will be key challenge for Sharif as ex-PM Khan maintains mass support in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s newly elected lower house of parliament on Sunday elected Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister for a second time, putting him back in a role he had stepped down from ahead of general elections on Feb. 8. 

Sharif, the candidate for his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and coalition allies, secured a comfortable win over Omar Ayub Khan of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of jailed former PM Imran Khan. 

Elections last month threw up a hung National Assembly and have been followed by weeks of protests by opposition parties over allegations of rigging and vote count fraud. 

In his first speech as PM, Sharif, 72, spoke of Pakistan’s burgeoning debt, saying it would be his government’s top priority to solve the economic struggles of the nation of 241 million people. 

“The parliament that we are sitting in, even the expenses of its proceedings are being paid through loans … Your salary and the salaries of all these people are being paid through loans,” the new PM said, as PML-N lawmekers cheered and opposition members chanted slogans against the leader of the house. 

“We will make Pakistan great and raise our heads high and move forward.”

Sharif, the younger brother of former three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, played a key role in keeping together a coalition of disparate parties for 16 months after parliament voted Imran Khan out of office in April 2022, and in securing a last gasp International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout deal in 2023. 

 

“CHALLENGES” 

Independent candidates backed by Khan gained the most seats, 93, after the elections, but the PML-N and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of the Bhutto dynasty agreed to an alliance to form a coalition government on Feb. 20. No single party won a majority.

The Sunni Ittehad Council backed by Khan alleges that the election was rigged against it and has called for an audit of the polls. Lowering political temperatures will thus be a key challenge for Sharif as Khan maintains mass popular support in Pakistan, and a continued crackdown on his party and his remaining in jail would likely stoke tensions at a time when stability is needed to attract foreign investment to shore up the economy.

Sharif’s main role will also be to maintain ties with the military, which has directly or indirectly dominated Pakistan since independence. Unlike his elder brother, who has had a rocky relationship with the military in all his three terms, the younger Sharif is considered more acceptable and compliant by the generals, most independent analysts say.

For several years, the military has denied it interferes in politics. But it has in the past directly intervened to topple civilian governments three times, and no prime minister has finished a full five-year term since independence in 1947.

Sharif also takes over a time when the new government will need to take tough decisions to steer the country out of financial crisis, including negotiating a new bailout deal with the IMF. The current IMF program expires this month. A new program will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery, but which will limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth. 

Inflation touched a high of 38 percent with record depreciation of the rupee currency under Sharif’s last government, mainly due to structural reforms necessitated by the IMF program. Pakistan continues to be enmeshed in economic crisis with inflation remaining high, hovering around 30 percent, and economic growth slowing to around 2 percent.

Other big moves by Sharif will include the privatization of loss-making state-owned enterprises such as the flagship carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). The Sharifs have close ties with rulers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which could help in securing investments in several projects Pakistan has lately showcased for sale.

Although defense and key foreign policy decisions are largely influenced by the military, Sharif will have to juggle relations with the US and China, both major allies. He is also faced with dealing with fraying ties with three of Pakistan’s four neighbors, India, Iran and Afghanistan.

Pakistan is also facing a troubling rise in militancy, which Sharif’s government will have to immediately tackle. 

“There are certainly difficulties but nothing is impossible if there is a will to do,” Sharif said in his maiden speech. 

“It is a long journey, thorny journey, full of hurdles but those nations who surmounted these huge obstacles, they became again, one of the most growing nations around the world.”

“CAN DO ADMINISTRATOR” 

Sharif, born in the eastern city of Lahore, belongs to a wealthy Kashmiri-origin family that was in the steel business. He started his political career as the chief minister of Punjab in 1997 with a signature “can-do” administrative style. Cabinet members and bureaucrats who have worked closely with him call him a workaholic.

As chief minister, the younger Sharif planned and executed a number of ambitious infrastructure mega-projects, including Pakistan’s first modern mass transport system in Lahore.

He was caught up in the national political upheaval when his brother was ousted from the premiership by a military coup in 1999 and he went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Sharif entered the national political scene again when he became the chief of the PML-N after the elder Sharif was found guilty in 2017 on charges of concealing assets related to the Panama Papers revelations. The Sharifs have been emboriled in multiple corruption cases over the decades, which they say are politically motivated. 

Married twice, Shehbaz Sharif has two sons and two daughters from his first marriage. Only one of his sons, Hamza, is in politics and was briefly CM of Punjab in 2023.

With inputs from Reuters


A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash

Updated 03 March 2024
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A party like no other? Asia’s richest man celebrates son’s prenuptials with a star-studded bash

  • Tycoons from around the world, heads of state and celebrities arrived in Jamnagar for Anant Ambani’s big fat wedding
  • Ambani family has a tradition of throwing lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying family’s political and economic clout

NEW DELHI: What happens when the son of Asia’s richest man is about to get married?
His father throws a three-day prenuptial bash four months before the actual ceremony.
Tycoons from around the world, heads of state, as well as Hollywood and Bollywood stars descended on the small western Indian city of Jamnagar on Friday where billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani is kickstarting a big fat wedding celebration for his youngest son.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg (L) with his wife Priscilla Chan attending a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Jamnagar. (AFP)


The nearly 1,200-person guest list includes pop superstar Rihanna, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Sunder Picha, Ivanka Trump and Bollywood celebrity Shah Rukh Khan.
All eyes are on Anant Ambani, 28, and his long-time girlfriend Radhika Merchant, 29, who will tie the knot in July. Radhika is the daughter of Viren Merchant, CEO of Encore Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., and entrepreneur Shaila Merchant.
Such festivities keep up with the Ambani family’s tradition of lavish and over-the-top parties while displaying the Indian billionaire’s economic and political clout.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Ivanka Trump (2R), daughter of US' former president Donald Trump with husband Jared Kushner (L), a White House adviser under Trump attending a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani (R), for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant in Jamnagar. (AFP)


Here is everything you need to know about the family and the prenuptial bash that captivated the country.
WHO IS MUKESH AMBANI?
Mukesh Ambani, 66, is currently the world’s 10th richest man with a net worth of $115bn, according to Forbes. He is also the richest person in Asia.
His Reliance Industries is a massive conglomerate, reporting over $100 billion in annual revenue, with interests ranging from petrochemicals, and oil and gas to telecoms and retail.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows director at Reliance's new energy business and Reliance Foundation Anant Ambani (R), son of billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, with his fiancée Radhika Merchant addressing guests during their three-day pre-wedding celebration in Jamnagar. (AFP)


Under Ambani’s leadership, Reliance — founded by his father in 1966 — sparked a telecom price war with the launch of the 4G phone and broadband service Jio in 2016. Today, it has more than 420 million subscribers and offers 5G services. Earlier this week, Disney struck an $8.5bn deal to merge its India business with Ambani’s Reliance Industries, forming a new media giant.
The Ambani family owns, among other assets, a 27-story private apartment building, named Antila, worth $1 billion in Mumbai. It has three helipads, a 160-car garage, a private movie theater, a swimming pool, and a fitness center.
Ambani’s critics say his company has flourished mainly because of political connections during the Congress governments in the 1970s and 80s and subsequently under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule after 2014. They say “crony capitalism” in India has helped certain corporations, such as Ambani’s, thrive.
Mukesh Ambani, 66, has started passing the torch to his two sons and daughter. The oldest son, Akash Ambani, is now chairperson of Reliance Jio; his daughter, Isha, oversees retail; and the youngest, Anant — who will wed in July— has been inducted into the new energy business.
DO YOU WANT A PARTY LIKE NO OTHER? THE AMBANIS HAVE YOUR BACK
Extravagant parties are the Ambanis’ specialty.
In 2018, when his daughter married, Ambani made the headlines because of the grand celebrations, with pop sensation Beyoncé performing at the pre-wedding festivities. At the time, Former US Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were among those who rubbed shoulders with Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars in the western Indian city of Udaipur.

Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani (R) with wife Nita Ambani attends the wedding reception his daughter Isha Ambani (2nd R) who wedded Anand Piramal (R), son of Indian billionaire industrialist Ajay Piramal, in Mumbai on December 14, 2018. (AFP)


Later that year, the happy couple, Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal, officially celebrated their engagement overlooking the picturesque Lake Como in Italy. In December 2018, they got married at the Ambani residence in Mumbai.
WHAT IS SO FASCINATING ABOUT THE PRE-WEDDING SHINDIG?
The three-day pre-wedding bash offers a glimpse of the opulence expected at the July wedding.
The Ambanis are celebrating it at the family’s hometown of Jamnagar — a city of around 600,000 in a near-desert part of Gujarat state — where they also have the business’ main oil refinery.
Guests will don jungle-themed outfits to visit an animal rescue center run by the groom-to-be, Anant. Known as “Vantara,” or “Star Of The Forest,” the 3,000-acre (about 1,200-hectare) center houses abused, injured and endangered animals, particularly elephants.

This handout photograph taken and released by Reliance on March 1, 2024, shows Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan (C) with his wife and actress Kareena Kapoor Khan (2L) upon their arrival at Jamnagar Airport in Jamnagar, to attend a three-day pre-wedding celebration hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, for his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant. (AFP)


The invitation also says guests will start each day with a new dress code, with mood boards and an army of hair stylists, makeup artists and Indian wear designers at their hotel to help them prepare.
There will also be traditional Hindu ceremonies in a temple complex.
The guests, many arriving by chartered planes, will be served 500 dishes created by around 100 chefs.
The guest list also includes Mohammed Bin Jassim al Thani, the prime minister of Qatar; Stephen Harper, former Canadian prime minister; and Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema.
On Wednesday, the Ambani family organized a community food service for 51,000 people living in nearby villages. 


Trump wins caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and sweeps Michigan GOP convention

Updated 03 March 2024
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Trump wins caucuses in Missouri and Idaho and sweeps Michigan GOP convention

  • Trump earned every delegate at stake on Saturday, bringing his count to 244 compared to 24 for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
  • March 5 is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries, the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election

COLUMBIA, Missouri: Former President Donald Trump continued his march toward the GOP nomination on Saturday, winning caucuses in Idaho and Missouri and sweeping the delegate haul at a party convention in Michigan.

Trump earned every delegate at stake on Saturday, bringing his count to 244 compared to 24 for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. A candidate needs to secure 1,215 delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.
The next event on the Republican calendar is Sunday in the District of Columbia. Two days later is Super Tuesday, when 16 states will hold primaries on what will be the largest day of voting of the year outside of the November election. Trump is on track to lock up the nomination days later.
The steep odds facing Haley were on display in Columbia, Missouri, where Republicans gathered at a church to caucus.
Seth Christensen stood on stage and called on them to vote for Haley. He wasn’t well received.
Another caucusgoer shouted out from the audience: “Are you a Republican?”
An organizer quieted the crowd and Christensen finished his speech. Haley went on to win just 37 of the 263 Republicans in attendance in Boone County.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s contests:
MICHIGAN

Michigan Republicans at their convention in Grand Rapids began allocating 39 of the state’s 55 GOP presidential delegates. Trump won all 39 delegates allocated.
But a significant portion of the party’s grassroots force was skipping the gathering because of the lingering effects of a monthslong dispute over the party’s leadership.
Trump handily won Michigan’s primary this past Tuesday with 68 percent of the vote compared with Haley’s 27 percent.
Michigan Republicans were forced to split their delegate allocation into two parts after Democrats, who control the state government, moved Michigan into the early primary states, violating the national Republican Party’s rules.
MISSOURI
Voters lined up outside a church in Columbia, home to the University of Missouri, before the doors opened for the caucuses. Once they got inside, they heard appeals from supporters of the candidates.
“Every 100 days, we’re spending $1 trillion, with money going all over the world. Illegals are running across the border,” Tom Mendenall, an elector for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said to the crowd. He later added: “You know where Donald Trump stands on a lot of these issues.”
Christensen, a 31-year-old from Columbia who came to the caucus with his wife and three children age 7, 5, and 2, then urged Republicans to go in a new direction.
“I don’t need to hear about Mr. Trump’s dalliances with people of unsavory character, nor do my children,” Christensen said to the room. “And if we put that man in the office, that’s what we’re going to hear about all the time. And I’m through with it.”
Supporters quickly moved to one side of the room or the other, depending on whether they favored Trump or Haley. There was little discussion between caucusgoers after they chose a side.
This year was the first test of the new system, which is almost entirely run by volunteers on the Republican side.
The caucuses were organized after GOP Gov. Mike Parson signed a 2022 law that, among other things, canceled the planned March 12 presidential primary.
Lawmakers failed to reinstate the primary despite calls to do so by both state Republican and Democratic party leaders. Democrats will hold a party-run primary on March 23.
Trump prevailed twice under Missouri’s old presidential primary system.
IDAHO
Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed cost-cutting legislation that was intended to move all the state’s primaries to the same date in May. But the bill inadvertently eliminated the presidential primaries entirely.
The Republican-led Legislature considered holding a special session to reinstate the presidential primaries but failed to agree on a proposal in time, leaving both parties with presidential caucuses as the only option.
“I think there’s been a lot of confusion because most people don’t realize that our Legislature actually voted in a flawed bill,” said Jessie Bryant, who volunteered at a caucus site near downtown Boise. “So the caucus is really just the best-case scenario to actually get an opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate and nominate them for the GOP.”
One of those voters was John Graves, a fire protection engineer from Boise. He said the caucus was fast and easy, not much different from Idaho’s usual Republican primary. He anticipated the win would go to Trump.
“It’s a very conservative state, so I would think that Trump will probably carry it quite easily,” Graves said. “And I like that.”
The Democratic caucuses aren’t until May 23.
The last GOP caucuses in Idaho were in 2012, when about 40,000 of the state’s nearly 200,000 registered Republican voters showed up to select their preferred


Trump escalates his immigration rhetoric with baseless claim about Biden trying to overthrow the US

Updated 03 March 2024
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Trump escalates his immigration rhetoric with baseless claim about Biden trying to overthrow the US

  • “Biden’s conduct on our border is by any definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America,” Trump said in a campaign rally
  • Trump conjured images of Biden turning “public schools into migrant camps” and “the USA into a crime-ridden, disease-ridden dumping ground, which is what they’re doing."

GREENSBORO, North Carolina: Former President Donald Trump on Saturday further escalated his immigration rhetoric and baselessly accused President Joe Biden of waging a “conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America” as he campaigned ahead of Super Tuesday’s primaries.

Trump has a long history of trying to turn attack lines back on his rivals in an attempt to diminish their impact. Biden has cast Trump as a threat to democracy, pointing to the former president’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Those efforts culminated in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as his supporters tried to halt the peaceful transition of power.
Trump, who has responded by calling Biden “the real threat to democracy” and alleged without proof that Biden is responsible for the indictments he faces, turned to Biden’s border policies on Saturday, charging that “every day Joe Biden is giving aid and comfort to foreign enemies of the United States.”
“Biden’s conduct on our border is by any definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America,” he went on to say in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Biden and his accomplices want to collapse the American system, nullify the will of the actual American voters and establish a new base of power that gives them control for generations.”
Similar arguments have long been made by people who allege Democrats are promoting illegal immigration to weaken the power of white voters — part of a racist conspiracy, once confined to the far right, claiming there is an intentional push by the US liberal establishment to systematically diminish the influence of white people.
Trump leaned into the theory again at his rally later in Virginia, saying of the migrants: “They’re trying to sign them up to get them to vote in the next election.”
“Once again Trump is projecting in an attempt to distract the American people from the fact he killed the fairest and toughest border security bill in decades because he believed it would help his campaign. Sad,” Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
Trump’s rally came three days before Super Tuesday, with elections in 16 states, including North Carolina and Virginia, where Trump held a rally Saturday evening. The primaries will be the largest day of voting of the year ahead of November’s general election, which is shaping up as a likely rematch of 2020 between Trump and Biden.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s last major rival, also campaigned in North Carolina. Speaking to reporters after her event in Raleigh, about 80 miles away, the former UN ambassador demurred on her plans after Super Tuesday.
“We’re going to keep going and we’re going to keep pushing,” she said, arguing a majority of Americans don’t want either Biden or Trump as the nation’s leader.
Much of Trump’s speech in North Carolina focused on the slew of criminal charges he faces. While the former president has successfully harnessed his legal woes into a powerful rallying cry in the primaries, it is unclear how his message of grievance will resonate with the more moderate voters who will likely decide the general election.
“I stand before you today not only as your past and hopefully future president, but as a proud political dissident and a public enemy of a rogue regime,” Trump said, railing against what he called an “anti-Democratic machine.”
At both rallies, Trump played a recording of “Justice for All,” the version of the Star-Spangled Banner that he collaborated on with a group of defendants jailed over their alleged roles in the January 2021 insurrection, whom he refers to as “hostages.”
As he focuses on the general election, Trump has painted an apocalyptic vision of the country under Biden, particularly on the topic of immigration, which was the animating issue of his 2016 campaign and which he has once again seized on as the US has experienced a record influx of migrants at the border.
Trump and Biden both visited the US-Mexico border on Thursday to highlight their contrasting approaches to the issue.
On Saturday, Trump conjured images of Biden turning “public schools into migrant camps” and “the USA into a crime-ridden, disease-ridden dumping ground, which is what they’re doing.” He also spoke at length about the murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student whose alleged killer is a Venezuelan man who entered the US illegally and was allowed to stay to pursue his immigration case.
Studies have found native-born US residents are more likely to have been arrested for violent crimes than people in the country illegally, but Trump has seized on several high-profile incidents, including a recent video of a group of migrants brawling with police in Times Square.
“Not one more innocent American life should be lost to migrant crime,” Trump said.
Beyond their importance on Super Tuesday, North Carolina and Virginia are both states the Trump campaign is focused on for November.
Trump won North Carolina twice but watched his margin of victory shrink. Biden’s reelection campaign already has staff on the ground hoping to flip the state for the first time since 2008.
Virginia, meanwhile, had once been a swing state but for years has trended blue and Trump lost there twice. But a Trump campaign senior adviser told reporters Saturday that he believes “we could make Virginia competitive.”
In North Carolina, a festive atmosphere surrounded the Greensboro Coliseum Complex ahead of Trump’s rally. Supporters stood in a line that snaked through a web of metal barricades and extended hundreds of yards from the arena. License plates from North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee filled the parking lot, where Trump flags flew alongside US and Confederate flags on many vehicles.
“We just love Trump,” said, Mary Welborn, who lives in nearby Thomasville and expressed that she was frustrated by the criminal prosecutions and civil judgments against the former president. “The way he’s being treated is insane. No other president has been treated this way,” she said.
After the rally, several attendees praised Trump’s hard line on immigration.
“We look like fools around the world with the border just wide open,” said Samuel Welborn of Thomasville.
“My biggest concern is that my kids are not going to have the same country that I grew up in,” added his wife, Mary. “It’s just a different time.”
In Richmond, supporters started lining up Saturday morning for an evening rally at a downtown convention center. The entry lines stretched several blocks by mid-afternoon, and supporters booed as a vehicle with a Haley campaign ad circled the building.
David McDaniel of nearby Chester said the country had gone downhill since Trump left office and that he’d personally struggled.
McDaniel, who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, said he had to shut down a construction business he owned due to rising costs for materials and gas.
“The fuel prices just ran us out,” said McDaniel, 32. “So we need Trump to get back in so we can open it back up.”