Johnson chastises Biden for ‘regret’ on calling Laken Riley murder suspect ‘illegal’: ‘What an embarrassment’

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House Speaker Mike Johnson blasted President Biden as an “embarrassment” for seemingly apologizing to Laken Riley’s accused killer instead of to the slain student’s family. 

“The president is cowering to his base and showing deference to a man who deserves none. This man is an illegal immigrant who brutally murdered Laken Riley. President Biden should be apologizing to Laken’s family. What an embarrassment,” Johnson wrote on X on Sunday, responding to Biden’s interview with MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart that aired Saturday.

At the urging of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Biden, during an off-script moment in his State of the Union address on Thursday, decried Riley’s killing by “an illegal.” The president later backtracked during his interview with Capehart, saying he should have instead used the word “undocumented” to describe Jose Ibarra, a Venezuelan national charged with murdering Riley, an Augusta University nursing student who was out for a run on the University of Georgia campus last month. 

The White House said Monday that Biden “did not apologize.”

“There was no apology anywhere in that conversation,” principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters aboard Air Force One. “He did not apologize. He used a different word.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that Ibarra illegally crossed the border near El Paso, Texas, and was released into the U.S. for further processing in September 2022. He was later arrested and released in New York City for allegedly endangering a child about a year later.

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House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., criticized President Biden walking back describing Laken Riley’s accused murderer as an “illegal.” (Getty Images)

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department confirmed Ibarra and his brother had been cited for shoplifting in Georgia in October 2023, months before Riley’s slaying. 

Ibarra is charged with the felonies of malice murder, murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and concealing the death of another, as well as the misdemeanor of physically hindering a 911 call, according to the affidavit filed on Feb. 23. According to charging documents, Ibarra is accused of “disfiguring” Riley’s skull. 

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“I shouldn’t have used illegal, I should’ve … it’s undocumented,” Biden told Capehart. “And look, 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. 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.”

Laken Riley posted held by Trump rally attendee

Trump supporters hold images of Laken Riley before he speaks at a rally in Rome, Georgia, on March 9, 2024. (Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images)

Notably, former President Donald Trump, the GOP presidential nomination frontrunner, slammed Biden’s walk-back at a rally. Torching Biden for mixing Riley’s first name up with USC head football coach Lincoln Riley, Trump said Biden “went on television and apologized for calling Laken’s murderer an illegal,” drawing boos from the crowd. 

Trump, who spoke to Riley’s parents backstage at the rally, doubled down on his choice of language. 

“They have a new name that’s even worse. You know what the new name is? Neighbor,” Trump said. “A newcomer to our country … are we going crazy or what? Is this country going crazy? How about that one, ‘newcomer’ … no, he was an illegal. And I say he was an illegal alien. He was an illegal immigrant. He was an illegal migrant. And he shouldn’t have been in our country, and he never would have been under the Trump policy.”

Biden addressed Riley’s parents during the State of the Union address while also asking, “But how many thousands of people are being killed by legals?”

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“To her parents, I say: My heart goes out to you. Having lost children myself, I understand,” he said. 

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