CNN anchor Victor Blackwell gave an emotional defense of his hometown of Baltimore on Saturday morning after President Donald Trump said the majority-black city was a “rodent infested mess.”
The president had attacked Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and his district, Maryland’s 7th, which covers much of West Baltimore, because the congressman had criticized conditions on the southern U.S. border.
“The president says about Congressman Cummings’ district that no human would want to live there,” Blackwell said after pausing to collect himself.
“You know who did, Mr. President? I did,” he said.
Blackwell continued: “There are challenges, no doubt, but people are proud of their community. I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but people get up and go to work there. They care for their families there. They love their children who pledge allegiance to the flag just like people who live in districts of congressmen who support you, sir. They are Americans too.”
In a series of tweets appearing to be based on a Saturday-morning “Fox & Friends” segment, Trump argued that Cummings’ district is “FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than the southern border.
“His district is considered the Worst in the USA,” the president wrote, calling Cummings a “brutal bully” who had been “shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol.”
Baltimore currently faces problems with crime ― a March 2019 New York Times feature titled “The Tragedy of Baltimore” addressed a spike in homicide there ― but the president’s comments were derided by many as an unfair comparison.
Trump claimed that the border was “clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded,” while Maryland’s 7th District was “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” Cummings should “help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place,” the president said. He then questioned why “so much money” is given to the district and even suggested, without any evidence, that public officials there may have “stolen” funds.
A group of attorneys who recently interviewed around 60 migrant minors detained at the border came away with horrific stories of hunger, cold, sickness and misery.
The attack on Baltimore comes as Trump has been repeating a new refrain, saying that anyone who “doesn’t like” parts of America can leave.
Blackwell led the segment on Trump’s attack by showing how it was part of a pattern of racist remarks the president has made against his most vocal nonwhite critics.
“‘Infested.’ That’s usually reserved for references to rodents and insects, but we’ve seen the president invoke infestation to criticize lawmakers before,” Blackwell began. On screen appeared the images of six legislators the president has recently attacked ― all nonwhite.
“You see a pattern here?” Blackwell said.
The anchor then ran through four examples of Trump tweets using the word: His now-infamous “go back” tweet, in which the president told four congresswomen of color, who are all American citizens, to return to “the totally broken crime infested places from which they came”; a January 2017 tweet telling black Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to spend more time in his “crime infested” district; a September 2014 missive criticizing former President Barack Obama for sending soldiers to “Ebola infested areas of Africa”; and an April 2018 comment about Californians who he said wanted out of “this ridiculous crime infested and breeding concept,” a reference to so-called sanctuary city policies.
Trump’s comparison was an apparent response to comments made by Cummings in a hearing of his House Oversight and Reform Committee last week in which Cummings questioned Homeland Security chief Kevin McAleenan over the treatment of migrants.
Cummings expressed outrage as he dismissed McAleenan’s claim that Customs and Border Protection was doing its “level best” to manage conditions at detention facilities.
“What does that mean?” Cummings asked the director. “When a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower? Come on, man. What’s that about? None of us would have our children in that position.”