Donald Trump visited Mexico on Wednesday to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto and delivered a message that signaled a changing tone in how he views Mexicans.
Trump: Mexican-Americans are "amazing people" https://t.co/V7aJk8W7Ly— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 31, 2016
"I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican-Americans not only in terms of friendships but in terms of the tremendous numbers that I employ in the United States and they are amazing people, amazing people. I have many friends, so many friends, and so many friends coming to Mexico and in Mexico," he said. "First-, second-, and third-generation Mexicans are just beyond reproach, spectacular, spectacular, hard-working people. I have such great respect for them and their strong values of family, faith, and community."
Many, including his opponent Hillary Clinton, were quick to point out that Trump launched his campaign last Summer by calling Mexicans rapists, drug dealers, and criminals. "Some, I assume, are good people," he said at the time as a reason for promising to build a bigger wall.
"From the first days of his campaign, Donald Trump has painted Mexicans as 'rapists' and criminals." pic.twitter.com/kwu8TJynrM— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 31, 2016
If Trump has so much respect & is proud of Mexicans, why did he spend the last year disparaging them? Rapists? Criminals? So which is it? 🤔— Tara Setmayer (@TaraSetmayer) August 31, 2016
Trump: "Mexicans are amazing rapists. Spectacular, spectacular hard working criminals."— michael musto (@mikeymusto) August 31, 2016
Just a reminder pic.twitter.com/9mrf2yvgsN— Colin Jones (@colinjones) August 31, 2016
Wait, now Trump is saying Mexicans are beyond reproach?— S.V. Dáte (@svdate) August 31, 2016
I thought he said they were rapists...
Let's take a moment to remember that Trump has claimed the man he is now standing next to deliberately sends drug dealers & rapists into US.— Jamie Weinstein (@Jamie_Weinstein) August 31, 2016
Some might argue that Trump was referring to Mexican-Americans living in the US in Wednesday's speech, whereas he was talking about native Mexicans when he called them criminals. People had a response to that too, recalling when Trump said a first-generation Mexican-American judge was unfit to reside over his Trump University lawsuits due to "a conflict of interest" given Trump's comments about immigration and building a taller border wall.
Trump: Mexican-Americans are "amazing people" - unless they're the judge assigned to my Trump University lawsuits.— Tom Jeffrey (@tjeffrey) August 31, 2016
In Mexico, Trump says Mexican-Americans are "beyond reproach." Huh. Even federal judge Mexican-Americans?— Ira Goldman 🦆🦆🦆 (@KDbyProxy) August 31, 2016
While answering questions from the press, Peña Nieto said Mexicans felt hurt by the "misinterpretations or assertions" that Trump had made about them. "But I'm sure his genuine interest is to build a relation that will give both societies better welfare," he said.
President Peña Nieto on perceptions of Mexico: "Mexican people felt hurt by the comments that have been made" https://t.co/0o8RCXOGEX— CNN (@CNN) August 31, 2016
Trump also said he and Peña Nieto hadn't discussed who would cover the costs of the border wall, even though his promise to make Mexico pay has been one of the biggest selling points of his campaign.
Some thought the press event worked in Trump's favor because Peña Nieto seemed accepting of him despite his hostile comments.
I think that went reasonably well for Trump. He showed that a foreign leader he's been hostile to is willing to negotiate on friendly terms.
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) August 31, 2016
Others said such an assessment was only possible because Trump has thus far failed to act like a leader.
Trump is getting treated like the kindergartener with no motor skills who gets a standing O when he finally hits the ball off the tee.
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) August 31, 2016
The Mexico visit comes ahead of Trump's planned immigration speech in Arizona the same day.