Biden says he regrets referring to ‘an illegal’ during his State of the Union address

President Joe Biden on Saturday told MSNBC that he regrets using the word “illegal” to describe the undocumented immigrant who is charged with killing a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia.

“During your response to [Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s] heckling of you, you used the word ‘illegal’ when talking about the man who allegedly killed Laken Riley,” Jonathan Capehart, host of MSNBC’s “The Saturday Show” and “The Sunday Show,” said during an interview on the campaign trail in Georgia.

“An undocumented person. And I shouldn’t have used ‘illegal.’ It’s ‘undocumented,'” Biden said.

“So you regret using that word?” Capehart pressed him.

“Yes,” Biden replied.

The statement marks an apparent reversal from what Biden said Friday. While at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, the president was asked, “Do you regret using the word ‘illegal’ to describe immigrants last night, sir?”

“Well, I probably — I don’t re — technically not supposed to be here,” he responded

During his State of the Union speech Thursday night, Biden used the term “an illegal” to describe Jose Antonio Ibarra, a Venezuelan who was previously arrested by federal authorities after having crossed the border into the U.S. Ibarra has been charged with killing 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley. The president did not mention Riley’s case in his MSNBC interview.

Biden said Saturday that in his speech to Congress, he was attempting to highlight the differences between rhetoric offered by himself and former President Donald Trump about the border, pledging not to “treat any of these people with disrespect.”

“He talks about ‘vermin.’ The way he talks about these people ‘polluting the blood.’ I talked about what I’m not going to do. What I won’t do, I’m not going to treat any of these people with disrespect,” Biden said.

The president added, “I don’t share [Trump’s] view at all,” saying that immigrants “built the country, [are] the reason our economy is growing,” but still, “we have to control the border and more orderly flow.”

Asked about whether he has a “red line” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid Israel’s actions in the Israel-Hamas war, Biden suggested some steps Netanyahu could take would be going too far.

“What is your red line with Prime Minister Netanyahu? Do you have a red line? For instance, would invasion of Rafah, which you have urged him not to do, would that be a red line?” Capehart asked.

“It is a red line,” Biden said, adding, “But I’m never gonna leave Israel. The defense of Israel is still critical.”

Still, Biden was firm that Israel “cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead as a consequence of going after [Hamas],” likely citing figures showing that more than 30,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry there. 

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