Johnson, Scott hit Biden for walking back ‘illegal’ remark: ‘The president is cowering to his base’

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and other Republicans went after President Biden on Sunday for walking back remarks he made during his State of the Union address, calling a man accused of murder an “illegal.”

The man, accused of killing university student Laken Riley in Georgia, is a migrant from Venezuela who was not authorized to be in the U.S. The incident has become a political lightning rod for conservatives.

“The president is cowering to his base and showing deference to a man who deserves none,” Johnson wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “This man is an illegal immigrant who brutally murdered Laken Riley. President Biden should be apologizing to Laken’s family. What an embarrassment.”

Biden walked back the “illegal” remark in an MSNBC interview Saturday.

“An undocumented person. I shouldn’t have used ‘illegal,’ it’s undocumented,” Biden told MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart. “And look, when I spoke about the difference between Trump and me, one of the things I talked about in the border was … the way he talks about vermin, the way he talks about these people polluting the blood [of America]. I talked about what I’m not going to do. What I won’t do.”

“I’m not going to treat any, any, any of these people with disrespect. Look, they built the country. The reason our economy is growing. We have to control the border and more orderly flow, but I don’t share his view at all,” Biden continued.

“So, you regret using that word?” Capehart asked.

“Yes,” Biden responded.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a potential GOP vice presidential pick, also went after Biden on Sunday.

“It’s disgusting,” Scott said of Biden’s apology in a Fox News “Sunday Morning Futures” interview. “No one can explain that. Talk about disgusting.”

“Joe Biden is more worried about using the word ‘illegal’ or ‘undocumented.’ The word he should use is ‘murderer,’” Scott continued. “Here, we have Donald Trump, our president, sitting down with Laken Riley’s family. And you have Joe Biden apologizing for what word he used.”

The use of the term “illegal” caused criticism from some Democrats, who view the term as derogatory and representative of harsher immigration policy that they do not support.

“Just like we should not be implementing Republican policy, we should not be repeating Republican rhetoric,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) said.

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