Former President Donald Trump called on his supporters to “lay down their lives” to fight against critical race theory (CRT) during his rally in Florence, South Carolina, on Saturday night.
The former president rallied his base by criticizing Republican lawmakers who have opposed him, and doubled down on his hardline conservative positions including CRT, which is the study of institutional racism in the legal system. The subject has emerged as a hot button issue for conservatives who argue it is divisive and shouldn’t be taught in schools. Others, however, say the concept is only taught in higher education.
During the rally, Trump invoked CRT as being a “matter of national survival,” calling on his supporters to fight to keep it “out of our schools.”
“We have no choice. The fate of any nation ultimately depends on the willingness of its citizens to lay down and they must do this—lay down their very lives to defend their country,” he said. “If we allow the Marxists and commies and socialists to teach our children to hate America, there will be no one left to defend our flag or to protect our great country or its freedom.”
Many took to social media to condemn the comments, with some accusing him of inciting political violence. Georgetown University Professor Don Moynihan tweeted: “What does this mean? If you are a teacher in a state you probably feel less and less safe by the extremist nature of this rhetoric.”
Podcaster and writer Bob Cesca tweeted: “Encouraging his fanboys to commit political violence again. Why is he still at large?”
Conde Nast editor Luke Zaleski slammed Trump as a “traitor and political mob boss” over the remarks.
Trump hit on a number of topics important to his voter base on Saturday, by claiming that his personality kept the United States “out of war” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t stop his attacks at Ukraine—while also criticizing President Biden.
“Under Joe Biden, America is neither feared nor respected. There has never been a time where our country has been treated the way it is right now,” he said.
He also attacked GOP South Carolina lawmakers who have previously been critical of him, including Representatives Tom Rice, who voted to impeach him, and Nancy Mace.
“They’re bad people in the house who went to Washington, sold you out, and partnered with the democrats to stab the republican part, and frankly, to stab our country in the back,” the former president said, slamming them as “horrendous” RINOs—referring to the phrase “Republicans in name only.”
Newsweek reached out to the office of former President Donald Trump for comment Sunday morning. This story will be updated with any response.