15 Jul Republicans silent as Trump renews racial attack on congresswomen | US news
In the face of international condemnation – but very little comment from his own party – Donald Trump returned to the offensive against four Democratic congresswoman he targeted with racial invective on Sunday.
True to provocative form, the president accused the Democrats of “spewing” “racist hatred” – precisely the offence of which he has been widely accused.
In a tweet early on Monday, the president wrote: “When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them [and] their horrible [and] disgusting actions!”
He added: “If Democrats want to unite around the foul language [and] racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular [and] unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I can tell you that they have made Israel feel abandoned by the US.”
The tweet reflected others Trump sent late on Sunday amid the storm created by his initial demand that the unnamed congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime[-]infested places from which they came”.
The targets of Trump’s ire were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York; Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan; Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts; and Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota.
None are white, all are leading critics of Trump and prominent voices for progressive policies recently ranged against the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in a public fight over the direction of the Democratic party. Together, the four women have become known as “the Squad”.
In familiar fashion, Trump’s first tweets, sent perhaps to distract from controversy over squalid conditions at the southern border and certainly in an attempt to drive a wedge into a fissure in the opposition party, were factually inaccurate.
Only Omar was born abroad – in Somalia, coming to America at the age of 12. Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican heritage and was born in New York. Tlaib’s parents were Palestinian immigrants who settled in Detroit. Pressley is African American and was born in Cincinnati.
Omar and Tlaib were the first Muslim women elected to Congress. On Sunday Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “If Trump shouted the same thing at a Muslim woman wearing hijab in a Walmart, he might be arrested.”
Ocasio-Cortez is a prominent advocate of policies such as the Green New Deal which have made her a much-ridiculed hate figure on Fox News and among Trump’s base. Pressley has been prominent in criticism of the Trump administration over the border crisis.
Condemnation of Trump’s attack on the congresswomen was widespread on Sunday, with the four Democrats targeted, senior party figures and mainstream press outlets condemning them as racist. Tlaib was among Democrats calling for Trump’s impeachment. Pelosi’s politically inspired reluctance to move on the issue is another point of difference between “the Squad” and party leaders.
That condemnation has now rippled across the Atlantic – on Monday an official spokesman for the British prime minister, Theresa May, said they were “completely unacceptable”. Boris Johnson, May’s heir apparent who is seen to be close to Trump, was under pressure to pass comment too.
Justin Amash, the Michigan congressman who has left the party in protest of the Trump presidency, called the tweets “racist and disgusting”. Amash’s parents are Palestinian and Syrian.
Commentators from the Never Trump wing of the party were also swift to condemn the president. Charlie Sykes, an editor at the Bulwark website, wrote: “There was a time when GOPers like Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley, Jeff Flake, even Reince [Priebus] would have denounced this kind of racism. Who will speak out now? Will any elected Republican push back?”
Such senior party figures, among them Utah senator Mitt Romney, a frequent critic of the president, were silent on the issue. Some, such as Graham, instead devoted Sunday media appearances to defending Trump over images from the southern border of migrant men held in cages amid what one reporter called “sweltering” heat and a “horrific” stench.
Trump’s reference to “the people of Israel” in his Monday tweet was in reference to successive controversies over remarks made by Omar about foreign policy. The reference to “foul language” was to Tlaib’s famous promise to “impeach the motherfucker”, delivered to supporters after she was sworn into Congress in January.
Trump sent his original tweets on a Sunday morning, an unsupervised time that according to a new book about the Republican party under the billionaire, American Carnage, White House staffers came to know as “the devil’s play shop”.
In the same book, the former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele, who is black, echoes Tlaib’s famous remark when he calls Trump a “motherfucker … defiling the White House”.
Trump sent his Sunday tweets before and after playing golf. On Monday he was back at the centre of American power.