The Slatest

How Republicans Are Reacting to Trump’s Racist Tweets About Four Congresswomen

Reps. Ayanna S. Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a congressional hearing.
Reps. Ayanna S. Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a congressional hearing.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Sunday, Trump tweeted out a racist attack on “ ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen,” suggesting that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Though Trump did not mention anyone by name, he was presumably referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, progressive women of color who are collectively known as “the Squad.” With the exception of Omar, these congresswomen were born in the U.S., though the tweets would still have been an issue even if they had all immigrated to this country.

Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates roundly decried the tweetstorm as bigoted and xenophobic. Until today, Republicans remained conspicuously silent. Below is a roundup of GOP reaction to Trump’s tweets. We will update the list as we hear back from lawmakers and officials.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)

The Senate’s highest-ranking Republican said he wouldn’t comment on the president’s tweets until a regularly scheduled news conference on Tuesday. “I’ll be happy to respond then,” he said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)

Alexander told CNN, “I’m working as hard as I can on reducing healthcare costs. I’m not giving a daily commentary on the president’s tweets.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (Missouri)

“Just because the so-called squad constantly insults and attacks the president isn’t a reason to adopt their unacceptable tactics,” Blunt said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There is plenty to say about how destructive House Democrats’ policies would be for our economy, our health care system, and our security. I think that’s where the focus should be.”

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine)

Collins released the following statement: “I disagree strongly with the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus – especially when it comes to their views on socialism, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their negative comments about law enforcement – but the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa)

Asked by Politico if she thinks the president’s tweets were racist, Ernst said, “Yes, I do. They are American citizens.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)

Graham said on Fox & Friends, “Mr. President, you’re gonna win. Just knock it down a notch. We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border—the border patrol agents—concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America. Aim higher. We don’t need to know anything about them personally. Talk about their policies. … I think they’re American citizens who were duly elected that are running on an agenda that is disgusting.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

Sen. Murkowski said in a statement, “There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments –they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop. We have enough challenges addressing the humanitarian crises both at our borders and around the world. Instead of digging deeper into the mud with personal, vindictive insults—we must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency.”

Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)

Portman said in a statement to Slate, “I think it’s divisive and wrong. I wish the President would talk more about the strong economy that he has helped create, and unite people around that.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah)

Romney told NBC10Boston, “I certainly feel a number of these new members of Congress have views that are not consistent with my experience and not consistent with building a strong America.” Romney said, “At the same time, I recognize that the president has a unique and noble calling to unite all Americans regardless of our creeds or race or place of our national origin, and I think in that case, the president fell far short.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida)

Rubio told reporters, “The president shouldn’t have written that. I think it damages him. It damages the country, and none of us should be participants in identity politics.” But when asked if Trump’s tweets were racist, Rubio said he doesn’t “read into people’s intentions.”

Sen. Tim Scott (South Carolina)

Scott tweeted, “Prior to this weekend, we saw the Democratic Party embroiled in a racist controversy. From Kamala Harris attacking Joe Biden on segregationists, to four black and brown women chastising Democratic leadership for attacking women of color, it is clear that the Democratic Party has serious issues along these lines. Instead of sharing how the Democratic Party’s far-left, pro-socialist policies—not to mention the hateful language some of their members have used toward law enforcement and Jews—are wrong for the future of our nation, the President interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language. No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide the nation further.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (Alabama)

When CNN asked if he had a reaction to the racist tweets, Shelby said, “I hadn’t read that, but I’ll go check it out.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)

Toomey gave a statement to CNN: “President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from. Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine. I couldn’t disagree more with these congresswomen’s views on immigration, socialism, national security, and virtually every policy issue. But they are entitled to their opinions, however misguided they may be. We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry.”

Rep. Andy Harris (Maryland 1st District)

Harris told WBAL News Now that the tweets were “clearly not racist” and that Trump “could have meant go back to the district they came from–to the neighborhood they came from.”

Rep. Will Hurd (Texas 23rd District)

Hurd told CNN, “Those tweets are racist, and xenophobic… It’s also behavior that’s unbecoming of the leader of the free world. He should be talking about things that unite, not divide us.”

Rep. Pete Olson (Texas 22nd District)

Olson tweeted, “The Tweet President Trump posted over the weekend about fellow Members of Congress are not reflective of the values of the 1,000,000+ people in Texas 22. We are proud to be the most diverse Congressional district in America. I urge our President immediately disavow his comments.”

Rep. Chip Roy (Texas 21st District)

Roy tweeted, “POTUS was wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any ‘home’ besides the U.S. But I just as strongly believe non-citizens who abuse our immigration laws should be sent home immediately, & Reps who refuse to defend America should be sent home 11/2020.”

Rep. Thomas Massie (Kentucky 4th District)

Massie told CNN that it’s “counterproductive for a President to insult members of Congress.” Then, when asked if the tweets were racist, he said, “I’m not into dissecting the insult.”

Rep. Paul Mitchell (Michigan 10th District)

Mitchell responded to the President, tweeting, “We must be better than comments like these. I share the political frustrations with some members of the other party, but these comments are beneath leaders.”

Rep. Fred Upton (Michigan 6th District)

Upton tweeted, “Frankly I’m appalled by the President’s tweets. There’s no excuse. Inflammatory rhetoric from both sides of the aisle that is used to divide us just isn’t right. It’s not helpful. We have too many challenges facing us that we ought to be working on together – immigration, the debt ceiling, the border crisis. The President’s tweets were flat out wrong and uncalled for, and I would encourage my colleagues from both parties to stop talking so much and start governing more.”

Rep. John Katko (New York 24th District)

Katko tweeted, “The President’s tweets were wrong. I have vehemently criticized lawmakers on the far-left when I disagree with the direction in which they want to take the country – but criticism should focus on policy.”

Rep. Susan Brooks (Indiana 5th District)

Rep. Brooks released a statement, saying, “As Americans, there is more that unites us than divides us. The President’s remarks to my colleagues across the aisle are inappropriate and do not reflect American values. ALL of our elected officials need to raise their level of civility in order to address the serious issues facing our country.”

Rep. Mike Turner (Ohio 10th District)

Rep. Turner tweeted, “I am confident that every Member of Congress is a committed American. @realDonaldTrump’s tweets from this weekend were racist and he should apologize. We must work as a country to rise above hate, not enable it.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (New York 21st District)

Stefanik tweeted, “While I strongly disagree with the tactics, policies, and rhetoric of the far-left socialist “Squad,” the President’s tweets were inappropriate, denigrating, and wrong. It is unacceptable to to tell legal U.S. citizens to go back to their home country.”

Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio 16th District)

Gonzalez tweeted, “While I disagree passionately with many of my colleagues on substantive policy issues, the comments from @POTUS yesterday were wildly inappropriate. That type of rhetoric only divides us when we need to be coming together to solve the real problems we face as a nation.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin 8th District)

Gallagher said in a statement, “This week we will be voting on an intelligence authorization bill and a minimum wage bill on the House floor, but the only questions we will get asked, the only questions that will be debated on TV and social media, will be about tweets we can all agree were wrong. Every day I hear from my constituents in Northeast Wisconsin that they would like both parties to end the partisan bickering and work together to solve the serious problems facing our nation. Instead of mean tweeting, let’s do our job and work to fix the looming budget crisis, a broken healthcare system, and a broken immigration system.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Mnuchin told Bloomberg, “I don’t find them racist. The president just went on and clarified his comments. I think he speaks for himself on that and he was very clear.” He also added, “I think the president clarified his comment. I understand what the president’s comment is. I’m not concerned by the president’s comment, and again, that’s the last comment I’m going to make on this issue.”

Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short

Short said on Fox News on Monday that Trump couldn’t be racist because he appointed Elaine Chao to serve as secretary of transportation. “So when people write that the president has racist motives here, just look at the reality of who is actually serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet,” Short said.

Acting Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli

In an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Monday, Cuccinelli said, “I’m not commenting on the president’s tweets. … I’m not the representative of Twitter.” He said he did not see the tweets as racist. “I see that as presumably political hand grenades, but I wouldn’t go that far, no, certainly not.”

Have not returned a request for comment:

Republican House Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California 23rd District)

House Republican Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (Louisiana 1st District)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)

Sen. John Barrasso (Wyoming)

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee)

Sen. John Boozman (Arkansas)

Sen. Richard Burr (North Carolina)

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia)

Sen. Bill Cassidy (Louisiana)

Sen. John Cornyn (Texas)

Sen. Tom Cotton (Arkansas)

Sen. Kevin Cramer (North Dakota)

Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho)

Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)

Sen. Steve Daines (Montana)

Sen. Michael Enzi (Wyoming)

Sen. Deb Fischer (Nebraska)

Sen. Cory Gardner (Colorado)

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa)

Sen. Josh Hawley (Missouri)

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Mississippi)

Sen. James Inhofe (Oklahoma)

Sen. Johnny Isakson (Georgia)

Sen. Ron Johnson (Wisconsin)

Sen. John Kennedy (Louisiana)

Sen. Mike Lee (Utah)

Sen. Rand Paul (Kentucky)

Sen. Pat Roberts (Kansas)

Sen. Ben Sasse (Nebraska)

Sen. Rick Scott (Florida)

Sen. John Thune (South Dakota)