Dueling Georgia rallies provide sharp contrast between Biden, Trump amid Laken Riley murder

Dueling campaign appearances in Georgia Saturday and a high-profile murder that has become a symbol of the border problem provided a sharp contrast between President Joe Biden and his presumptive Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump.

The death of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student allegedly killed by an illegal migrant on the campus of University of Georgia, has become a rallying cry for Republicans, a tragedy that they say encompasses the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis. While Biden botched her name in Thursday’s State of the Union speech, Trump on Saturday met with her family.

“I met her beautiful mother and family backstage,” Trump told rallygoers in Rome, Georgia on Saturday. “They said she was like the best. She was always the best to us. They admit that she was the best, and she was the first in her class. She was going to be the best nurse. She was the best nursing student. She was always the best. She was the brightest light in every room, they told me.”

He added, “She was the whole world to her parents and to her sister and just to the whole family.”


Supporters of former President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump hold images of Laken Riley before he speaks at a “Get Out the Vote” rally in Rome, Ga., Saturday. (ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Rome, Ga., on Saturday. (ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump said that he was “profoundly honored” to have Riley’s family and friends at the rally.

“They’re so incredible,” he continued. “The hearts of hundreds of thousands and indeed millions and millions of Americans and people worldwide, they’re shattered alongside of your beautiful hearts. We share your grief. We share your grief. Thank you, darling. Thank you. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.”


In a viral picture, the former president is seen hugging Riley’s parents before the rally.

Riley’s stepfather, John Phillips, was seen wearing a bright red, “Make America Great Again” hat at the rally.

US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks to supporters of former President Trump as they hold images of Laken Riley before he speaks at a “Get Out the Vote” rally in Rome, Ga., Saturday. (ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Biden, who also held a campaign event Saturday, told MSNBC in a pre-recorded interview that he regrets using the term “illegal” during his State of the Union address to describe Riley’s suspected killer. The term “illegal immigrant” angers liberals who prefer to call people who enter the country illegally “undocumented.”

“I shouldn’t have used illegal, it’s undocumented,” he told MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart.

When I spoke about the difference between Trump and me, one of the things I talked about on the border was his – the way he talks about vermin, the way he talks about these people polluting the blood,” Biden said. “I talked about what I’m not going to do, what I won’t do. I’m not going to treat any, any, any of these people with disrespect. Look, they built the country. The reason our economy is growing, we have to control the border and more orderly flow. But I don’t share his view at all.”

When asked if he regrets his word choice, Biden replied “yes.” 

US President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Atlanta on Saturday. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

His remorse came after an off-the-prompter moment at his State of the Union address got him in hot water with some in his party.

Biden first mistakenly referred to Riley as “Lincoln Riley,” and then called her alleged killer an “illegal.”


Biden initially defended his use of “illegal” before eventually retracting it during a conversation with Capehart.

Fox News Digital’s Brie Stimpson contributed to this report.


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