Responding to President Trump's dubious claims that he tried to stop a racist chant directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar at his rally Wednesday night, 2020 candidate Sen. Kamala Harris condemned the president's "empty words" and argued that he is nothing compared to a "real American leader like John McCain."

"I just think they're empty words, Jake. The chant was created not by the crowd, but by the president's tweets, and it's obvious, it's really not a debatable point. And I think it is clearly not a sign of real leadership. I think you have mentioned it. Contrast it with a real American leader like John McCain, who during the campaign in 2008, he stood up, he spoke up. He was -- you know, he understood as an American hero, that the voice of someone who wants to be, much less is the president of the United States, must be about elevating discourse, that is about speaking to our better selves. This president keeps finding new lows. I would like to say it's shocking, but at some point it's sadly predictable."

Flashback: In 2008, McCain — a sworn enemy of Trump's even after his death — shot down claims by a supporter that President Obama couldn't be trusted as president because he was "an Arab."

  • "No ma'am," McCain told the supporter. "No ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about."

The big picture: A number of Republicans have criticized Trump for his recent racist tweets about 4 Democratic women of color, urging him to attack their policies instead. The chant about Omar, a Muslim woman who came to the U.S. as a teenage refugee, has prompted a new wave of outcry. Even Trump on Thursday attempted to distance himself from the crowd's ugly words, claiming that he "wasn't happy with that message they gave last night" — despite using similar language in his tweets.

Go deeper: Trump says he disagrees with "send her back" chants about Ilhan Omar

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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