Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, castigated national Democrats Friday for distorting comments President Donald Trump made about the transnational drug gang MS-13.
Neilsen, appearing on "Fox and Friends," discussed the recent controversy triggered after media outlets inaccurately reported remarks the president made during a White House meeting Wednesday. Numerous media outlets reported Trump referred to all illegal immigrants as "animals," but in actuality, he used the term to specifically describe MS-13 gang members.
The secretary expressed that she was "horrified" by the distortion and the backlash it evoked, stating it was clear who Trump was referencing.
"I have to be honest," Nielsen said. "I was a bit horrified. The president was very clear; if you listen to the tape or if you were in the room, it was clear he was talking about MS-13."
Neilsen stated that the gang, which is estimated to have 10,000 members in the United States alone, has a long and well-chronicled history of violence that called for no equivocation.
"This is a gang whose very motto is 'rape, control, and kill.' The instances of the brutality and the violence that they conduct on communities is well documented," Nielsen said. "Everything from [a] sex-trafficked woman whose head was bashed in 28 times to a gentleman who was stabbed 100 times, decapitated, and then his heart was taken out."
"So, if anyone wants to quibble about whether we should call those people animals, perhaps the quibble should be whether we call them something worse," she added.
The secretary was also asked to respond to comments, made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and other national Democrats, criticizing the president over the misinterpreted remarks.
"Personally, I think those lawmakers owe the president an apology," Nielsen said. "They are distorting facts in a very dangerous way. The president is trying to protect Americans. He's making clear that he will not stand for this violence in our communities and here you have elected members of Congress pretending that he's talking about something entirely different."
She added that such misrepresentations were polarizing and below what should be expected from members of Congress.
"It's dangerous, it's inappropriate, and frankly, it's just unprofessional," Nielsen stated.
On Thursday, while taking questions from reporters during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump asserted he would always refer to MS-13 members as "animals."