U.S. President Donald Trump launched an inaccurate, vitriolic attack against progressive U.S. Democratic congresswomen on Sunday, referring to them as foreign-born and telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came from”
In Twitter postings, Trump didn’t name anyone in his rant, though he apparently was targeting a group that includes four high-profile lawmakers who won election last November ― Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
All four are women of colour ― though only Omar was born outside of the U.S. Born in Somalia, her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child. Ocasio-Cortez, like Trump, was born in New York, while Tlaib was born in Detroit and Pressley in Cincinnati.
The freshmen congresswomen have been outspoken critics of Trump, particularly over his handling of immigration and overcrowded detainment centres which have caused a humanitarian crisis along the U.S-Mexico border.
Omar and Tlaib both took shots at Trump at an event on Saturday, with Tlaib telling the crowd: “We’re going to impeach the MF’er, don’t worry!”
Trump, in his criticism of the unidentified “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen,” said they “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all).”
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough,” he continued.
Omar hit back at Trump on Twitter, calling him “the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”
“You are stoking white nationalism [because] you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez also rebuked Trump, blaming him for the border crisis that she accused Trump and corporations of profiting from.
“You are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet.”
Pressley retweeted Trump’s comments while stating “THIS is what racism looks like.”
Tlaib, taking to Twitter, invited Trump to “keep talking” as she continues “fighting corruption in OUR country.”
“I do it every day when I hold your admin accountable as a U.S. Congresswoman,” she said.
Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also quickly assailed the president, saying in a tweet that his comments reaffirm that his signature Make America Great Again slogan “has always been about making America white again.”
Pelosi criticized Trump’s tweets as “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation” and said that instead of attacking members of U.S. Congress, “he should work with us for humane immigration policy that reflects American values.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan also was among the first to call out Trump’s tweets as blatantly racist.
“That is a racist tweet. Telling people to go back where they came from? I think that’s wrong,” he said during an interview on Fox News.
“These are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the most distinguished bodies,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan of the Democrats, appearing on CNN on Sunday, also slammed Trump, calling his words “incredibly racist.”
“I’m proud to be the daughter of immigrants from Mexico,” she said. “I’m proud to bring a perspective and experience to Congress in my policy decision-making ― and that’s what the diversity of the Democratic Party does and I’m proud that we have more women in Congress and more women of colour in Congress than ever before.”
Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who recently left the Republican Party to become an independent, also called Trump’s comments “racist and disgusting” on Twitter.
The Trump re-election campaign attempted to defuse the intense backlash, with an official insisting ― despite the unambiguous wording of the president’s tweet ― that “anyone who says the president told members of Congress to go back to where they came from is lying.”
Matt Wolking, deputy director of Trump’s “rapid response” team, justified that spin in a tweet of his own by noting that the president told the congresswomen to “then come back and show us how it is done.”
Wolking did not address the inaccuracy of Trump claiming that more than one of the congresswomen he clearly had in mind “originally came” from another country.
Meanwhile, a host on Sunday’s “Fox and Friends” on Fox News ― Jedediah Bila ― treated Trump’s tweets as a jocular matter, saying: “Someone’s feeling very comedic today.”
She added: “I think President Trump is making an important point. (He’s) saying if you don’t like what this country stands for, you’re not going to change it and take away all these things that Americans value so much. Like, if you don’t like it leave, and go set up camp somewhere else.”
With his tweets, Trump’s waded deeper into a dispute between the four progressive congresswomen and Pelosi that stemmed from the quartet’s discontent with the recent legislative efforts to increase funding for immigration and border control agencies to deal with the migrant crisis on the U.S. border with Mexico. Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley were among the most outspoken critics of a bill that finally passed, arguing that the legislation did not go far enough to improve standards at detention centres.
After Pelosi criticized the women, urging them to come talk to her in private if they have a complaint, Ocasio-Cortez accused the speaker of being disrespectful of them while singling out “newly elected women of colour.”
Trump, speaking to reporters on Friday of Ocasio-Cortez and Omar, said he “doesn’t even know where they came from.”
This story has been updated with comments from Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Amash.