President Donald Trump on Tuesday repeated his previous racist attacks on four congresswomen of color, saying they were free to leave the country if they did not like his policies.
“They can go wherever they want or they can stay,” he said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “But they should love our country. They shouldn’t hate our country. If you look at what they said, I have clips right here. The most vile, horrible statements about our country. About Israel. About others. It’s up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay, but they should love our country. They should work for the good of our country.”
Democrats have criticized the Trump administration in recent months for its treatment of migrants at the southern border, specifically those seeking asylum from several Central American countries. Official reports have showed massive overcrowding and inhumane conditions at border detention facilities, prompting many to speak out against the policies which led to those conditions.
Trump also claimed on Tuesday that the four Democratic congresswomen “hated” the United States, suggesting they had spoken “so badly about our country.”
“It’s my opinion they hate our country. And that’s not good. Not acceptable,” he claimed.
The president first came under criticism over the weekend after he told a group of freshman lawmakers — Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — that they should “go back” to their home countries if they were unhappy with his policies, a common racist trope. Three of the four lawmakers were in fact born in the United States; Omar immigrated to the country from Somalia as a child.
On Monday, the president escalated his rhetoric, falsely suggesting that the lawmakers — in particular Omar — hated the United States and supported Al Qaeda. “When I hear the way they talk about our country, when I hear the anti-Semitic language they use, when I hear the hatred they have for Israel and the love they have for enemies like Al Qaeda, you know what? I will tell you that I do not believe this is good for the Democrat [sic] party,” he claimed.
Trump was referring to remarks Omar made at an event earlier this year about 9/11, which were later distorted and spread by conservative media.
The president also said Monday that the freshman lawmakers were “free to leave” the country if they did not like his policies, a refrain he echoed Tuesday. “If somebody has a problem with our country, if somebody doesn’t want to be in our country, they should leave,” he said at the time.
The White House has since defended Trump, claiming the president and his supporters are simply “tired” of Democrats disrespecting the troops and Customs and Border Protection agents at the southern border.
“[The president] is tired,” counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told reporters outside the White House Tuesday afternoon. “A lot of us are sick and tired of this country— of America coming last to people who swore an oath of office, sick and tired of our military being denigrated, sick and tired of the [CBP] people I was with — who are overwhelmingly Hispanic, by the way in McAllen, Texas — sick and tired of them being … criticized […].”
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) July 16, 2019
Conway also claimed Trump was not actually suggesting the four congresswomen should go back to other countries and lashed out at a reporter who asked for clarification of those comments, asking where the reporter was from.
“What’s your ethnicity?” she asked, prompting the reporter to ask why his ethnicity was relevant. “… It is [relevant], because you’re asking about — [Trump] said ‘originally from.'”
Conway then noted that her ancestors were from “Ireland and Italy.”
Trump’s decision to double down on his racist attacks — and his many subsequent rants against the four congresswomen — comes as Republicans appear split on how to react to the president’s comments.
According to a Washington Post analysis Tuesday, only a small handful of Republicans in Congress have condemned Trump’s repeated attacks, while the vast majority have either jumped to his defense or remained silent.