President Donald Trump read the lyrics of an anti-immigrant song titled “The Snake” on Friday, reverting to a campaign staple that Trump has used to criticize United States’ immigration policy.
The song, written by the late singer-songwriter Oscar Brown Jr., tells the story of a woman who takes in a frozen snake she finds on her way to work. After the snake is nursed back to health, it bites the women and kills her.
Trump uses the song as an allegory to immigration law, suggesting that immigrants who come to the United States in search of a better life and help may end up hurting the country in the end.
“Did anyone ever hear me do ‘The Snake’ during the campaign” Trump asked the audience to raucous applause. “Because I had five people outside say, ‘Could you do The Snake?’”
He added: “So this is called, this is called ‘The Snake’ and think of it in terms of immigration. And you may love it or you may say, ‘Isn’t that terrible.’ And if you say, ‘Isn’t that terrible,’ who cares?”
The story was a staple of Trump’s 2016 campaign, regularly read at events to raucous applause as the businessman-turned-politician ran on a hardline immigration platform that included building a wall along the US-Mexico border and, at one point, halting all Muslim immigration.
Use of the song by Trump has morphed over time, however. Initially, Trump read the story as an attack against accepting Syrian refugees, who he claimed included terrorists hellbent on entering the United States.
But Trump, like he did on Friday, later began using the story to attack all immigrants.
“Immigration,” Trump said, before jumping into the story.
He last read the story at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to mark his 100th day in office.
“Let’s dedicate this to (then-Homeland Security Secretary John) Kelly, the Border Patrol, and the ICE agents for doing such an incredible job,” he said. “All right?”
Use of the song has long been controversial.
Brown, who died in 2005, wrote it in 1963 based on The Farmer and the Viper, one of Aesop’s fables. The moral of the story is that kindness can be betrayed.
But the Brown family, after seeing Trump seize on the song during the campaign, asked the then candidate to stop using it.
“We don’t want him using these lyrics,” Maggie Brown told the Chicago Tribune in 2016. “If Dad were alive, he would’ve ripped (Trump) with a great poem in rebuttal. Not only a poem and a song, but an essay and everything else.”