President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he would always refer to members of the transnational drug gang MS-13 as "animals."
"So when the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country, I referred to them as animals. And guess what?" Trump said. "I always will."
Trump's received backlash during a meeting Wednesday after he used the term "animals" in response to a comment from Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims about MS-13. He said the following: "We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in. We're stopping a lot of them, but we're taking people out of the country. You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals, and we're taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that's never happened before."
Numerous media outlets falsely reported that Trump was referring to all migrants coming into the United States. The New York Times characterized Trump's remarks as him having "lashed out at undocumented immigrants during a White House meeting," tweeting out the text of his remarks without the previous MS-13 statement for context.
The president's comments Thursday came during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg when a reporter asked him to "clarify" his remarks from the day prior.
"I was talking about the MS-13 [gang]. If you look a little bit further on the tape, you'll see that, so I'm surprised you're asking this question, because most people got it right," Trump said.
Trump added that the United States needs stronger immigration laws.
"They're coming into our country; we're getting them out. They come in again; we're getting them out. We need strong immigration laws. We have the weakest laws in the entire world. We have laws that are laughed at on immigration," he said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and other Democrats criticized the president for the comments and accused him of calling all migrants, animals.
"But we're getting them out by the thousands," Trump said Thursday. "But it's a big, dangerous job."