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Arkansas congressman's defense on TV of Trump draws criticism

By Doug Thompson

This article was published January 13, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

3rd District Republican Congressman Steve Womack of Rogers speaks to kids on Monday, October 16, 2017 at Lincoln Junior High School in Bentonville.

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BENTONVILLE -- Some Democrats and opponents who plan to run against 3rd District Republican Congressman Steve Womack of Rogers criticized him after he tried to defend President Donald Trump's recent reference to immigrants from "s***hole" countries.

Three days after getting the backing of House Republicans to take over as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Womack fielded questions from a Northwest Arkansas television newscast about the president's remark regarding immigrants from several nations. According to the video from the website of KHBS/KHOG in Rogers, Womack said in part:

"I wish he [the president] would choose his words differently and more carefully and vet those, but I try to look beyond those statements and just get to the root of what he is saying. And what he is saying is, we need to do a better job of attracting people into our country that will be part of the solution to the American challenge right now. How do we make America great again?

"And so what I think the president is saying in short is that if you are only appealing to people from countries that are behind the times, depraved countries, if that's the element you are appealing to -- and of course a lot of those folks want to come to America and pursue the American dream -- then he feels we should make the same or better appeal to people from other European countries etc. that can come in here and actually fit in to the society as we know it and do the kind of things that will make America a prosperous nation."

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Requests for comment and clarification -- for instance, whether he meant "deprived" instead of "depraved" -- and a response to Democratic criticism of his remarks weren't received by early Friday evening.

Josh Mahony of Fayetteville is Womack's only announced Democratic opponent so far. Mahony released this statement early Friday afternoon, with asterisks in the original:

"Northwest Arkansas is home to a growing and productive immigrant community. Today, Steve Womack basically defended Donald Trump's racist remarks about immigrants from 'sh**hole countries.' Womack piled on by calling those countries 'depraved' and that we should make better appeals to European countries, which is code for 'less brown and more white immigrants.' Steve Womack is trafficking in racist comments and playing dog whistle politics."

The chairman of the state Democratic Party, Michael John Gray, issued a statement shortly thereafter. It read in part:

"The Republican Party is better than what we've seen from its leaders over the past 24 hours. What Representative Womack said today was racist and quite frankly embarrassing for the people of Arkansas' 3rd District. I've spent enough time in that area of the state to know that the 3rd District is full of good, decent people -- people far above Representative Womack's words today. They know how to treat their neighbor with decency and respect. The people of northwestern Arkansas deserve a leader who reflects its people's decency."

Womack also has a Republican primary opponent, Robb Ryerse of Springdale.

"This is precisely the type of thing that has me running for Congress," Ryerse said Friday evening. The president's remarks were disturbing, he said, but watching Womack not so much disagree with those comments but wish the sentiments had been expressed more tactfully is unacceptable, too.

Another announced opponent, Michael Kalagias of Rogers, from the Libertarian Party, said the remarks were offensive but recent actions are worse.

"Trump saying horrible things and Womack defending them is bad, but there are other things we should pay more attention to," Kalagias said, such as recently renewed authority for spying and increases to the deficit.

A Section on 01/13/2018

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TuckerMax says... January 13, 2018 at 6:44 a.m.

Womack thinks he can put lipstick on the racist pig.

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RBear says... January 13, 2018 at 6:52 a.m.

Womack misses the points of Trump's statements which makes this even more disgusting. Trump feels it's acceptable to insult and degrade humans in a racist manner without really looking for solutions. Trump represents an office that has been revered until his presidency. Womack is stuck with the racist idiot in it now and can only double-speak a defense which makes the congressman look even more stupid than Trump.
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For a party that claims to stand for the people, they are about as feckless and insolent as they come.

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PopulistMom says... January 13, 2018 at 7:30 a.m.

The truth of the matter is that most of the African immigrants who come here are the well educated from those countries. Trump and Womack are not the types to ever meet b;lack people so they don't know.

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23cal says... January 13, 2018 at 7:40 a.m.

About "..... I try to look beyond those statements and just get to the root of what he is saying." This is seriously wrong.
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Of course, when you do that, you get to insert anything which appeals to you in place of what was actually said.
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The president is surrounded by verbal pooper scoopers who are constantly trying to clean up the mess he leaves whenever he speaks.
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Part of the job description of the leader of the free world is to be able to communicate clearly.....not to have everyone "try to look beyond those statements."
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About "And what he is saying is, we need to do a better job of attracting people..." Nope, what he is saying is that he is a racist and this is a White America. When every individual gets to decide what is "the root of what he is saying", we come up with widely divergent interpretations. This is why the leader of our nation needs to be able to express himself clearly without being surrounded by a legion of deniers, apologists, and spinners.
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About "Steve Womack is trafficking in racist comments and playing dog whistle politics." Why, yes....yes, he is.

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RBear says... January 13, 2018 at 8:08 a.m.

Exactly PM. Trump spends so much time trying to appease his base he overlooks reality and trying to understand the truth. I wish Cotton had the decency to do as Sen. Graham did and admonish the president for the comments. Instead, he doesn't recall the comments which pretty much shows how feckless he is. What is more disturbing is much of Cotton's base here in Arkansas views these comments as acceptable, showing how low Trump has dragged the country.

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mozarky2 says... January 13, 2018 at 8:18 a.m.

Anderson Cooper, while decrying President Trump calling Haiti a s***hole, refers to Haiti as, well...a s***hole!
"I've never met a Haitian who isn't strong," Cooper said as he choked back tears. "You have to be to survive in a place where the government has often abandoned its people, where opportunities are few and where mother nature has punished the people far more than anyone should ever be punished".

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PopulistMom says... January 13, 2018 at 8:25 a.m.

mozarky2,

Ireland wasn't a nice place during the potato famine. However, you do not insult foreign countries. By suggesting that we take people from Norway, but not Africa, Trump is suggesting that we take whites but not blacks. Many people can come from poor countries and still be educated. These people have enough education and money for the VISA application fees. They have a higher median education than the average American. Many of them decided to come here after going to school here. Trump clearly does not understand the vetting process, and he knows nothing about diplomacy. The fact that people all over the world are denouncing us today does take notice away from the $130,000 Trump paid the porn star to be hush about there encounter when he was first married to Melania.

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RBear says... January 13, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

Yes PM, people like moz just don't understand how you act on the international stage and what is decency compared to what is not. Trump plays to this demographic and they pride themselves in exhibiting and accepting this sort of behavior. In the UK, they would be called hooligans.

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BoudinMan says... January 13, 2018 at 8:35 a.m.

PopMom, to your point, I believe the percentage of college graduates immigrating to the U.S. from Nigeria is 43%. The percentage of Americans with college degrees overall, 33%.

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BoudinMan says... January 13, 2018 at 8:42 a.m.

One interesting facet of all this, ta da, economics. The continent of Africa is attracting entrepeneurs, capital investment, research and development, and venture capitalists from all over the world. What does trump's actions here do to the chances of us getting a share of that largesse of natural resources and other goodies? Well, don't look now, but guess who has been busy wheeling and dealing in Africa. The Chinese. The man doesn't have a clue. As for Womack, 11.6.18

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