WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested in a series of tweets that a group of Democratic congresswomen should "go back and help fix" the countries they came from.
Democrats were quick to accuse the president of a racist trope, believing that the tweets targeted four congresswomen -- none of whom are white, and all of whom have been engaged in an intraparty dispute with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who 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), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," Trump wrote on Twitter.
He added: "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."
Only one of the four women -- Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. -- was born outside the United States, in Somalia. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was born in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., is black. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants.
"These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough," Trump said. "I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"
In a two-tweet statement 12 hours later, Trump appeared to confirm that he was at least speaking of Omar and Ocasio-Cortez.
Few Republicans had responded to the tweets as of Sunday evening. Two officials from Trump's administration were asked directly during previously scheduled visits on the Sunday morning talk shows: Mark Morgan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"I think that you need to talk to the president about his specific tweets," Morgan said on CBS' Face the Nation. "What I will tell you is that we absolutely have a crisis on the border, 100%."
On CNN's State of the Union, Cuccinelli said he didn't know who Trump was talking about. When host Jake Tapper noted that Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York, Cuccinelli replied, "Well, New York could use a little fixing today," referring to Saturday night's blackout.
Conservatives who have previously criticized Trump were more vocal. Meghan McCain, co-host of The View, called the tweets racist.
"And I see Trump people are trying to spin this to just be about Rep. Omar, but we all know that's a lie," McCain tweeted. "But even if it were just about Rep. Omar, it would still be racist. We don't tell people we've welcomed into this country to 'go back.'"
After a Twitter user argued to Matt Walsh, a contributor to conservative Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire website, that Trump was simply telling the congresswomen "to go back to their districts and do the job they were elected to do," Walsh replied: "Trump's dumb comments are bad enough. The worst part is that he causes his fans to lie and embarrass themselves on his behalf."
Privately, some Democrats predicted the tweets could give both sides of the Democrats' internal dispute something to unify around. Publicly, Democrats chided Trump for what they called a racially motivated message.
Pelosi called the tweets "xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation."
Each of the four congresswomen, assuming they were the subjects of Trump's tweets, denounced the comments on Twitter.
"Mr. President, the country I come from, & the country we all swear to, is the United States," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "You are angry because you can't conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder."
Omar tweeted, as if addressing Trump: "You are stoking white nationalism [because] you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."
Pressley, sharing a photo of Trump's tweets, replied: "THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we're not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday."
"Want a response to a lawless & complete failure of a President?"' Tlaib tweeted. "He is the crisis. His dangerous ideology is the crisis."
CRITICISM OF OMAR
Trump's tweets came after days of Fox News coverage that centered on Omar. During her tenure in Congress, Omar has rattled fellow Democrats and provided ammunition to Republicans for her repeated criticisms of Israel.
She has also been vocal about her life as a refugee who fled her native country and eventually settled in America, only to be disappointed with the country she found. Omar -- one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, along with Tlaib -- has used her personal story to make the argument that loving America does not require an acceptance of its shortcomings.
"I grew up in an extremely unjust society, and the only thing that made my family excited about coming to the United States was that the United States was supposed to be the country that guaranteed justice to all," Omar recently said. "So I feel it necessary for me to speak about that promise that's not kept."
Comments like these have drawn criticism from Fox News personalities such as Tucker Carlson, who used his television program to criticize Omar.
"Our country rescued Ilhan Omar," Carlson said in a broadcast last week. "We didn't do it to get rich; in fact, it cost us money. We did it because we are kind people. How did Omar respond to the remarkable gift we gave her? She scolded us and called us names; she showered us with contempt."
Trump singled out Ocasio-Cortez and Omar by name on Friday, when he said that "a group of people is being very disrespectful" to Pelosi.
"A group of people that came from -- I don't know where they came from," Trump said Friday. "I'm looking at this Omar from Minnesota, and if half of the things they're saying about her are true, she shouldn't even be in office. But Cortez should treat Nancy Pelosi with respect. She should not be doing what she's doing."
After Democrats defended the four congresswomen on Sunday, Trump returned to the topic on Twitter. Trump in the past has criticized Omar for her comments on Israel, and on Friday he accused Ocasio-Cortez of calling Pelosi a racist.
"So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion," Trump tweeted Sunday. "Whenever confronted, they call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, 'RACIST.' Their disgusting language ... and the many terrible things they say about the United States must not be allowed to go unchallenged."
Ocasio-Cortez last week accused Pelosi of "explicit singling out of newly elected women of color" for criticism. She later said that she does not believe Pelosi is racist but that she felt there was a pattern of people singling out the four freshman congresswomen, and "knowing the amount of death threats we get, knowing the amount of concentration of attention, I think it's worth asking why."
Information for this article was contributed by Katie Rogers and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times; by Ros Krasny of Bloomberg News; and by Jonathan Lemire, Calvin Woodward, Hope Yen and staff members of The Associated Press
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, center, a freshman Democrat representing New York's 14th Congressional District, is flanked by Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., left, and Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., right, as they are sworn in on the opening day of the 116th Congress at the Capitol in Washington.
A Section on 07/15/2019
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