ECU addresses community feedback following 2020 Trump campaign rally

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) - East Carolina University has issued a statement after President Trump's 2020 rally garnered the national spotlight this past Wednesday.

In the statement addressed to the ECU community Friday afternoon, the university says that it has received a great deal of feedback since the campaign visit.

It then says, as it stated in the past, that ECU did not sponsor, host or endorse the event which took place at Minges Coliseum.

ECU continues that it must follow federal, state, and UNC System guidelines to any for-profit or non-profit group.

"The Trump Campaign rented Minges Coliseum, which is available to any for-profit or non-profit group. With this event and with any event on our campus, the University does not control, and is not responsible for, the content of speech," the statement says.

You can read it in its entirety here:

Dear ECU Community,
We have received a great deal of feedback since the Trump Campaign visit on Wednesday (July 17). As you know and was stated several times, East Carolina University did not sponsor, host or endorse the event. As a public university, however, we must follow federal, state and UNC System guidelines regarding free speech. The Trump Campaign rented Minges Coliseum, which is available to any for-profit or non-profit group. With this event and with any event on our campus, the University does not control, and is not responsible for, the content of speech.

East Carolina University attracts students, faculty and staff from all over the region, state, nation and world. For decades, people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences have been proud to call themselves Pirates. A diverse campus allows us to pursue excellence in many ways and fields, to communicate effectively with a broad variety of audiences, and – according to our alumni – to be well prepared for the world after graduation.

ECU is indeed a welcoming and accepting campus that provides students, faculty and staff the opportunity and space to share their thoughts and views. We strive to create an environment where individuals feel wanted, welcomed, appreciated and valued, understanding that there will be times we disagree. That challenge, and sometimes conflict, builds resiliency and sharpens the intellect. That’s the beauty of living, learning and working at a great institution of higher education.

We encourage and welcome civil discourse on our campus. The U.S. Constitution allows the intellectual and individual freedom of expression that enables us to live our mission. These freedoms do not protect the right to hear and listen to only what is convenient and agreeable but do protect the right to be able to respond and express one’s own views. We will facilitate such conversations on the campus in the fall.
Across our campus, we strive to live out our ECU Creed (included below) and work toward a community that cherishes our diversity as a strength and value in our community and nation.

The ECU Creed
In the pursuit of educational excellence, responsible stewardship, and intellectual freedom, the community of scholars at East Carolina University is committed to learning at the highest level. Founded in the tradition of service and leadership, members of our academic society exemplify high standards of professional and personal conduct at all times. Therefore, we aspire to the

As an East Carolinian,
I will carry out personal and academic integrity.
I will respect and appreciate the diversity of our people, ideas, and opinions.
I will be thoughtful and responsible in my words and actions.
I will engage in purposeful citizenship by serving as a positive role model.
By striving to meet these aspirations on and off campus, our individual freedom to learn and a pledge to serve will be preserved.

Dan Gerlach
Interim Chancellor

Ron Mitchelson
Provost & Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Sara Thorndike
Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance

Chris Dyba
Vice Chancellor for University Advancement

Mark Stacy
Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences

Jay Golden
Vice Chancellor for Research, Economic Development, and Engagement

Virginia Hardy
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Donna Payne
University Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs

Previous Story

President Donald Trump responded Thursday to questions about one of the most talked-about moments at last night's rally in Greenville.

Following a photo op with the U.S. Special Olympics team in the Oval Office, Trump was asked by a reporter why he didn't tell the crowd to stop chanting "send her back", which was directed toward Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar.

"Number one I think I did...I started speaking very really was a...I disagree with it by the way but it was quite a chant and I felt a little bit badly about it. But I will say this, and I started speaking very quickly, but it started up rather, rather fast as you probably noticed."

"So you'll tell your supporters never to..." the reporter starts to say as the president interrupts him.

"I would say that I was not happy with it, I disagree with it. But again, I didn't say that, they did, but I disagree with it."

President Trump and Rep. Omar have both been critical of each other.

Wednesday night's chant started as the president was on the offensive against Rep. Omar.

Footage from the rally shows that the chant went on for about 17 seconds.

Pitt County Democratic State Representative Kandie Smith released a statement saying she does not stand for the chanting and is disheartened by it.

Pitt County Democratic Chairman Charles Mclawhorn agrees.

He says, "A friend of mine who lives in the western part of the state and is not political at all said, I saw on TV what happened in Greenville last night and I'm very embarrassed for Greenville and I felt the same way."

Pitt County Republican Party Chairman Gary Weaver believes Greenville should just move on from it.

Weaver says, "I'm not defending him. I'm not saying they were wrong, I'm not saying they were right. That's their opinion and everybody in America has their opinion and they have a right to express that opinion."

The president ended the Oval Office photo op by saying, "There's tremendous support for the Republican Party. There's tremendous support for this team, for the president, for the vice president. We have tremendous support -- maybe like nobody's seen in a long time. There's great energy. I say there's far more energy on the right than there is on the left. I mean, I hear about the left. All I see is the left is fighting all over the place. I think we have far more support than they do, and I think we have far more energy than they do. And we're going to have a very interesting election. But I was not happy when I heard that chant. Thank you very much, everybody."

Previous Story

Going after four Democratic congresswomen one by one, a combative President Donald Trump turned his campaign rally into an extended dissection of the liberal views of the women of color, deriding them for what he painted as extreme positions and suggesting they just get out.

“Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” Trump told the crowd in North Carolina, a swing state he won in 2016 and wants to claim again in 2020. “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave.’”

Eager to rile up his base with the some of the same kind of rhetoric he targeted at minorities and women in 2016, Trump declared Wednesday night, “I think in some cases they hate our country.”

Trump’s jabs were aimed at the self-described “squad” of four freshmen Democrats who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the U.S. except for Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child after fleeing Somalia

Taking the legislators on one at a time, Trump ticked through a laundry list of what he deemed offensive comments by each woman, mangling and misconstruing many facts along the way.

Omar came under the harshest criticism as Trump played to voters’ grievances, drawing a chant from the crowd of “Send her back! Send her back!”

She responded Wednesday night with a series of tweets, including one quoting Maya Angelou’s defiant poem, “Still I Rise,” with the words “You may shoot me with your words... But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

“I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!” she wrote in another.

Trump set off a firestorm Sunday when he tweeted that the four should “go back” to their home countries — though three were born in the United States. Trump has accused them of “spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician.”

He expanded on his criticisms in Greenville.

Among his complaints against Tlaib, Trump correctly reported that she had referred to the president by the “F-word,” adding, “That’s not nice, even for me.” Trump himself had unloaded a vulgarity earlier in his speech, denouncing the Russia probe of his campaign and administration as “bulls---.”

As for Ocasio-Cortez, Trump fumbled over her name and declared, “I don’t have time to go with three different names.” He then referred to her as just “Cortez” as he challenged her complaints about dire conditions at migrant detention centers at the border.

In a lighter moment, Trump wondered if Pressley was related to Elvis Presley, then pivoted to more serious points, claiming she thought people of color should “think the same.”

As for Omar, Trump unfurled a whole list of complaints, including a false accusation that she voiced pride in al-Qaida.

Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he’s “winning the political argument” and “winning it by a lot.”

“If people want to leave our country, they can. If they don’t want to love our country, if they don’t want to fight for our country, they can,” Trump said. “I’ll never change on that.”

Trump’s harsh denunciations were another sign of his willingness to exploit the nation’s racial divisions heading into the 2020 campaign.

His speech was filled with Trump’s trademark criticisms about the news media, which he says sides with liberals, and of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Mueller had been scheduled to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, but it was postponed . Trump brought him up anyway.

“What happened to me with this witch hunt should never be allowed to happen to another president,” he said.

He also talked about illegal immigration, a main theme of his first presidential bid that is taking center stage in his re-election campaign. He brushed off the criticism he has gotten for saying that the congresswomen should go back home.

“So controversial,” he said sarcastically.

The four Democratic freshmen have portrayed the Republican president as a bully who wants to “vilify” not only immigrants but all people of color. They say they are fighting for their priorities to lower health care costs and pass a Green New Deal addressing climate change while his thundering attacks are a distraction and tear at the core of American values.

The Democratic-led U.S. House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump’s “racist comments” despite near-solid GOP opposition and the president’s own insistence that he doesn’t have a “racist bone” in his body.

Trump hasn’t shown signs of being rattled by the House rebuke and called an impeachment resolution that failed in Congress earlier Wednesday “ridiculous.” The condemnation carries no legal repercussions, and his latest harangues struck a chord with supporter in Greenville, whose chants of “Four more years!” and “Build that wall!” bounced off the rafters.

It was Trump’s sixth visit to the state as president and his first 2020 campaign event in North Carolina, where he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)