White House Clarifies that Trump's Advice to Cops Was a 'Joke'

Posted: Jul 31, 2017 5:15 PM

President Trump was clearly riled up about the horrific crimes waged by MS-13 gang members, telling America's law enforcement "don't be too nice" when dealing with those kinds of violent suspects during a speech in Long Island, NY Friday.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, and I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’ “ Trump told the audience of law enforcement officers at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, N.Y.

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head, I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’" (USA Today)

A number of groups were unnerved by the president's remarks, arguing that he was basically giving police permission to rough up suspects and engage in lawlessness. The ACLU, YWCA, Amnesty International and the Southern Poverty Law Center were a few of the "civil rights groups" to speak up.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who had a lot to cover in Monday's White House press briefing, including yet another staff shakeup, nevertheless took a few moments to clarify the president's Long Island remarks. 

"I believe he was making a joke at the time," she told reporters.

Joke or not, the media and social justice groups were quick to criticize Trump for talking tough. Yet, perhaps doing so ignores the criminals' crimes.

Suffolk County has been particularly hard hit by violence related to MS-13 and has seen 17 murders allegedly committed by the gang since the start of 2016, according to NPR. One fatal attack included machetes and baseball bats used on two teen girls, NPR reported.