Democrats condemn Trump’s racist tweets, congressional Republicans mostly silent

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern calls his GOP colleagues ‘cowards’

Democratic Reps. Ayanna S. Pressley, from right, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Veronica Escobar  testify about their trip ICE detention facilities at the southern border last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic Reps. Ayanna S. Pressley, from right, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Veronica Escobar  testify about their trip ICE detention facilities at the southern border last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted July 15, 2019 at 10:01am

Updated 5:59 p.m. | While Democrats were united in their condemnation of President Donald Trump’s call Sunday for four members of Congress to “go back” to “the crime infested countries from which they came,” Republicans on Monday were slow to publicly comment on the president’s tirade. 

On the Republican side of the aisle, condemnations of Trump for calling four of their colleagues unworthy to serve in Congress because of their non-European heritage were slow to materialize. Even as conservative pundits decried the president’s targeting of four progressive lawmakers — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — as an ugly attack rooted in racism, not a political critique. 

Trump has not apologized for the tweets, and by Monday afternoon had twice restated his view that their non-white ancestry should disqualify them from a life in American politics critiquing U.S. policies.

[Trump suggests Rep. Omar, other Dems cheered 9/11 attacks and ‘should leave’]

Asked by a reporter if it concerned him that white nationalists have found common cause with him on that point, Trump responded that “it doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”

The tweet “doesn’t say leave forever,” Trump said.

By Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern’s account, Republican lawmakers condemn the president’s words in private, even as they hesitate to in public.

“Cowards,” the House Rules Committee chairman said of his GOP colleagues in a tweet Sunday.

While it is unclear what motivated the president’s vitriol, the coalition of progressive freshman known as the “squad” has become a favorite target of the Republican Party. The diatribe follows a similar line of attack Fox News host Tucker Carlson aimed at Omar last week. And the campaign arm of House Republicans, the National Republican Campaign Committee, launched a site Monday that hopes to tarnish Democrats in competitive districts by aligning them with the “squad,” Politico reported.  

[Rep. Ilhan Omar calls Fox News host Tucker Carlson a ‘racist fool’]

Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland called for a “strong bipartisan rebuke” of the president’s comments. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, some Republican lawmakers have leveled partial critiques of Trump’s words as “wrong” or “over the line,” while some have defended him. A handful of Republicans criticized the president’s premise as racist.  

Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas who has supports a barrier wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and held up billions in disaster aid earlier this year in a call for more funding for the agency that detains migrant children, called the tweets “wrong.” 

Sen. Pat Toomey also described the president’s attack on the congresswomen as “wrong” in a statement Monday morning. 

“President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from,” the Pennsylvania Republican said. “Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine.”

Toomey said he disagrees with the congresswomen on nearly every policy issue, but that the Republican Party “should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”

While stopping short of condemning the president’s tweets for their bigotry, Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement Monday afternoon that they were “way over the line” and called for him to delete them. 

In the same statement, she distanced herself from the quartet. The Republican from Maine jabbed the congresswomen for “their views on socialism,” and for what she described as “their anti-Semitic rhetoric and their negative comments about law enforcement.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowsi of Alaska criticized the president’s tweets as “spiteful” and “unacceptable.”

“We must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency,” she said.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina described the remarks as “racially offensive language” and “unacceptable.”

“No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further,” he said.

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa affirmed she considers the tweets racist Monday evening.

“They are American citizens,” she said in a CNN interview. 

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas told CNN that Trump’s remarks were “racist and xenophobic” as well as “unbecoming of the leader of the free world” Monday morning. 

“He should be talking about things that unite, not divide us,” Hurd said.

Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio also stated frankly that “[the president’s] tweets from this weekend were racist and he should apologize.”

“We must work as a country to rise above hate, not enable it,” Turner said.

Texas Republican Rep. Pete Olson did not describe the tweets as racist, but did say they are “not reflective of the values” of his district.

“I urge our President immediately disavow his comments,” he said in a tweet Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Democrats’ outraged calls for Republicans to speak out have piled up.