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'We will not be silenced': US congresswomen accuse Trump of 'blatantly racist attack'

The US President yesterday said: “If you’re not happy here, you can leave.”

(left to right) Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib
(left to right) Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

FOUR US CONGRESSWOMEN HAVE hit back at President Donald Trump over comments he made saying they should “go back” to their country of origin.

At a news conference yesterday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts rebuked Trump after he doubled down on his initial comments from the weekend when speaking to reporters at the White House. 

Pressley condemned Trump’s “xenophobic and bigoted” comments and said “we will not be silenced.”

Omar said Trump made a “blatantly racist attack” on four lawmakers “of color.” “This is the agenda of white nationalists,” she said.

Omar and Tlaib repeated calls for Trump to be impeached.

At the White House several hours before, Trump said: “All they do is complain.

These are people that hate our country. If you’re not happy here, you can leave.

Trump also accused the four first-term congresswomen — who are of Hispanic, Arab, Somali and African-American origin — of having “love” for US “enemies like Al-Qaeda”.

Asked by a reporter whether he was concerned that many people saw his comments as racist, Trump said: “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”

‘Sickening’

The president first attacked the lawmakers — all but one of whom were born in America — with a series of tweets on Sunday, saying they should “go back” to their countries of origin.

In his initial Twitter attack, Trump – who before becoming president pushed the racist “birther” conspiracy theory that Obama was not born on US soil – said the congresswomen came from corrupt, poorly managed countries to which they should return.

Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley were all born in the United States while Omar arrived as a refugee from war-torn Somalia, which she fled as a child.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, denounced Trump as the most “openly racist and divisive” president in US history.

“Go home to your country? It’s sickening, it’s embarrassing,” Biden said.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, has had a tenuous relationship with the four left-leaning congresswomen, but she jumped to their defense.

Pelosi said she was seeking Republicans to co-sponsor a House resolution “condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets” and “characterisation of immigrants.

Republican reaction

Trump’s comments prompted critical reactions from foreign leaders, and outrage at home from Democrats — while Republicans were initially silent.

Yesterday, several of his party faithful began to speak up.

“My view is that what was said and what was tweeted was destructive, was demeaning, was disunifying, and frankly it was very wrong,” said Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah.

“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska. “We must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency.”

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she disagreed with the policies espoused by the “far-left” Democratic lawmakers, but that Trump was “way over the line”.

For Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, “the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine”. He said “they are entitled to their opinions, however misguided they may be.” 

Texan Will Hurd, the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, told CNN that Trump’s behavior was “unbecoming of the leader of the free world.”

And Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican from South Carolina, criticized the president for using “unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the latest international leader to condemn Trump’s tweets.

“I completely and utterly disagree with him,” she told Radio New Zealand, noting that her country welcomed diversity in the corridors of power.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain’s Theresa May also expressed disapproval.

With reporting from AFP

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Sean Murray

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