After spending much of the week defending his racist assertion that four Democratic congresswomen of color should “go back” to the countries “from which they came,” President Donald Trump on Friday falsely stated that they had used the anti-Semitic slur “evil Jews” and have “call[ed] the people of our country and our country ‘garbage.’ ”
None of the congresswomen in question—Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib—have ever been reported to say either of those things.
“[It’s] horrible what they’ve said about our country, these congresswomen,” Trump told reporters outside of the White House. “They can’t call our country and our people ‘garbage.’ They can’t be anti-Semitic. They can’t talk about ‘evil Jews,’ which is what they say. ‘Evil Jews.’ ”
As noted, both of these accusations are completely false. The president seems to be attempting to reference a 2012 tweet from Omar that was surfaced by RNC spokesperson Elizabeth Harrington earlier this week. Prior to arriving in Congress and in the midst of the November 2012 conflict between Israel and Gaza, in which between 57 and 105 Palestinian civilians were killed and four Israeli civilians were killed, Omar tweeted she wanted people to “see the evil doings of Israel.” Harrington seems to have conflated this statement with calling all Jews “evil,” and the president has apparently conflated that with using the anti-Semitic slur “evil Jews.”
While neither Omar nor any of the three other members in question have been reported to use that phrase, Trump has generalized that lawful migrants who arrive here on family visas “can be truly evil.”
Trump repeated a version of his other false claim, that the four congresswomen had called “our country and our people ‘garbage,’ ” at least six times during his talk with reporters on Friday. He had already used that line at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday, the same rally at which his crowd started chanting “send her back” after a reference to Omar.
The Raleigh News & Observer helpfully published a fact-check of Trump’s claim in Wednesday’s speech that Ocasio-Cortez “described contemporary America, that’s you, that’s me, that’s all of us, as ‘garbage.’ ” As the News & Observer noted on Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez said something else entirely:
We’ve strayed so far away from what has really made us powerful, and just, and good, and equitable, and productive. All of these [progressive economic policies] sound radical compared to where we are, but where we are is not a good thing. This idea of 10 percent better from garbage shouldn’t be what we settle for.
So, Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t calling America and its people “garbage,” or even the president “garbage.” She was saying economic conditions for too many are “garbage,” due to what she sees as overly business-friendly policies from both political parties.
Trump himself has used the word “garbage” to criticize aspects of the U.S.—in 2014, he tweeted, of President Barack Obama, “Everything he touches turns to garbage!” When a reporter on Friday afternoon noted that Trump himself has been very critical of the United States in the past—for instance, he once also defended Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin by saying, “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?—Trump gave a rambling, non-responsive answer.
“I believe all people are great people. I believe everyone is great. But I love our country and I’m representing our country,” he said. The president then concluded with more inaccurate ranting: “You can’t speak about our country the way [of] those four congresswomen. They said ‘garbage.’ They say things about Israel that’s so bad, I’m not even going to repeat them right now. They can’t get away with that act.”