'This is what racism looks like': Democrats blast Trump for attacks on 'The Squad'

Image: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives to a House Civil Rights and
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives to a House Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee hearing at the Capitol on May 15, 2019. Copyright Anna Moneymaker Getty Images file
By Rebecca Shabad with NBC News Politics
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Few Republicans had reacted to the president's tweet, which Democrats have slammed as "racist" and "xenophobic."


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump faced a mounting tide of criticism Monday over his weekend tweet that progressive Democratic congresswomen should "go back" and fix the "totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Democratic members of Congress, 2020 presidential candidates and a world leader lashed out at the president's comment. Few Republicans have reacted to the president's tweet, which Democrats have described as "racist" and "xenophobic."

Trump dug in on his comments Monday, tweeting that the congresswomen should apologize to the country for "foul language" and "terrible things they have said."

Trump's weekend comments appeared to take aim at several women of color, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee and U.S. citizen from Minnesota; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, referencing the lawmakers' ongoing friction with House speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley were all born in the United States; Omar arrived in the U.S. as a child.


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., said Monday that Trump's statement employed "hallmark language of white supremacists."

She also slammed GOP members of Congress who have avoided criticizing the president's comments. "Until Republican officials denounce yesterday's explicitly racist statements (which should be easy!), we sadly have no choice but to assume they condone it," she tweeted. "It is extremely disturbing that the *entire* GOP caucus is silent. Is this their agenda?"

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., tweeted Sunday that Trump's tweet was what "racism looks like."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted Trump in a pair of tweets Sunday and defended the four members — striking a note of party unity following her tense back-and-forth with Ocasio-Cortez last week.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told Trump to "shut. Your. reckless. Mouth," suggesting that Trump's comment would unite Democrats.


The candidates running to take President Trump on next year also united in their condemnation of his comment.

"It is absolutely racist and un-American," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., told reporters in New Hampshire Sunday. "And it is an old trope, 'go back to where you came from,' that you might hear on the street but you should never hear that from the President of the United States. This guy doesn't understand, he doesn't understand his responsibilities and I don't think he understands what the American people want from their president, which is somebody who's going to elevate public discourse and speak with a level of dignity."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., struck a similar note. "Let's be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen," she tweeted Sunday. "This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it. They should be treated with respect. As president, I'll make sure of it."

So did Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont: "When I call the president a racist, this is what I'm talking about," he tweeted. "We must stand together for justice and dignity towards all."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the current frontrunner in the Democratic race, tweeted Sunday that Trump "continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain. Let's be clear: Racism and xenophobia have no place in America."

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., slammed Trump and linked to an ActBlue website for people to contribute to Democratic congressional candidates.


Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, appeared to be the only Republican member of Congress to directly criticize the president Sunday, tweeting that he was "wrong" to use the language he had.

Roy, however, retweeted one of Trump's tweets blasting the four congresswomen on Twitter Monday.

Former Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., who's running for Senate in 2020, said in an interview on MSNBC's "Kasie DC" on Sunday that he doesn't agree that the members of Congress should go back where they came from — "of course not," he said — but did not hold the president unilaterally responsible for the controversy.


"Look, I don't like the discourse in the country right now. I don't like the media feeding into it. I don't like some of the bombastic statements on either side," he said. "Look, again, I spent years of life in that part of the world. I understand why Rep. Omar has anti-Semitic comments. I don't like any of that stuff. I think it doesn't have any place in our society. I think people should calm down, work together and get things done."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close ally of Trump's, defended the president Monday. "We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists," he said on Fox News. "They hate Israel. They hate our country...they're anti-Semitic. They're anti-America."

Still, Graham said, Trump should "aim higher": "We don't need to know anything about them personally. Talk about their policies."

Acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, asked Monday if he views the president's tweet as racist, said it was not.

"No," he replied on CNN's "New Day." "I see that as presumably political hand grenades. But I wouldn't go that far, no. Certainly not."



Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., who recently left the Republican Party and supports impeaching the president, was sharply critical of Trump's remarks. "To tell these American citizens (most of whom were born here) to 'go back' to the 'crime infested places from which they came' is racist and disgusting," he tweeted Sunday.


Outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May was not happy with Trump's comments. "The prime minister's view is that the language used to refer to these women was completely unacceptable," her spokesman said during a daily briefing with reporters inside the UK parliament.

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