Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said Thursday he was referring to MS-13 gang members when he called some undocumented immigrants "animals" during an event at the White House a day earlier.
Trump on 'animals' comment: 'I'm referring to the MS-13 gangs'
"I'm referring to the MS-13 gangs that are coming in. I was talking about the MS-13," Trump said, insisting his comments were clear. "I'm actually surprised you're asking this question."
Trump was unapologetic about his language and said he'd use it again.
"These are animals. They're coming in to our country and we're getting them out," he said. "I referred to them as animals. And guess what: I always will."
Trump on Wednesday did not directly refer to MS-13 when he used the term "animals" on Wednesday, but his comments came after Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims talked about her struggles in navigating state and federal laws to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to "find the bad guys" in their jails and specifically said "there could be an MS-13 member."
That's when Trump interjected: "We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in. ... You wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also defended Trump's comments, which some interpreted to be referring to a broader set of undocumented immigrants, saying he was "very clearly" referring to gang members.
"This is one of the most vicious and deadly gangs that operates by the motto of rape, control and kill," Sanders said. "If the media and liberals want to defend MS-13, they're more than welcome to. Frankly I don't think the term that the President used was strong enough."
She went on to describe in graphic terms several violent crimes she said were carried out by MS-13 gang members.
"It took an animal to stab a man 100 times and decapitate him and rip his heart out. It took an animal to beat a woman they were sex trafficking with a bat 28 times, indenting part of her body. And it took an animal to kidnap, drug and rape a 14-year old Houston girl," Sanders said. "Frankly, I think the term animal doesn't go far enough, and I think that the President should continue to use his platform and everything he can do under the law to stop these types of horrible, horrible disgusting people."