President Donald Trump said on Monday that he’s not concerned about coming across as racist in tweets he posted on Sunday admonishing Democratic women of color in Congress to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” because many people agree with him. No, really.
While Trump was taking questions from reporters during an event that was ostensibly supposed to be a “Made in America Product Showcase,” Fox News reporter John Roberts asked him if it concerns him that “many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?”
Trump said that he is not, in fact, worried about it.
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” he said. “And all I’m saying — they want to leave, they can leave. Now, it doesn’t say, ‘Leave forever.’ It says, ‘Leave if you want.’”
Trump quickly pivoted to talking about the stock market hitting all-time highs — as though the existence of a relatively strong economy stands on its own as a refutation of anyone who would criticize the American government. His comments were applauded.
Trump also escalated his attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — who, along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), is one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress — by baselessly accusing her of being an al-Qaeda sympathizer.
“I mean, I look at the one, I look at Omar — I don’t know, I never met her — I hear the way she talks about al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has killed many Americans. She said, ‘You can hold your chest out. When I think of America — uhh. When I think of al-Qaeda, I can hold my chest out,’” Trump said. “These are people that in my opinion hate our country ... they can leave ... they have to love our country.”
Trump went on to accuse Omar of “speaking about how wonderful al-Qaeda is” and said she “hates Jews.”
Trump’s latest attack on Omar represents a grotesque distortion of what she said during a 2013 interview with a public television station. Referring to her experiences as a college student Omar said, “When I was in college, I took a terrorism class ... every time the professor said ‘al-Qaeda,’ his shoulders went up. ... But you know ... you don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with the intensity. You don’t say ‘the army’ with the intensity ... But you say these names [of terrorist groups] because you want that word to carry weight. You want it to be something.”
At no point did Omar say anything even close to praising al-Qaeda. And while she has criticized Israel in a manner that some thought invoked anti-Semitic tropes, Trump’s claim that she “hates Jews” is also a dangerous exaggeration. (Omar was inundated with death threats earlier this year after Trump posted a video suggesting she sympathized with 9/11 attackers.)
In short, the president isn’t concerned about being racist because other people out there are racist too. He also doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the safety of a duly elected Congress member, given that his obscene lies about her are likely to result in her receiving threats.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party — which holds a majority in the Senate and thus has the power to prevent Trump from being removed from office — barely seems capable at this point of criticizing the president’s explicit bigotry. Such is the state of play in American politics.