Mainers Condemn Trump's Attack On Minority Congresswomen

Jul 16, 2019

President Donald Trump continued his attack on four freshmen, minority congresswomen on Monday, calling them anti-American Communists who hate Jews, and rejecting critics who called him out for being deliberately divisive and racist.

The latest episode began Sunday, when Trump suggested that the four women should “go back to the countries they came from.” While he mentioned only two of the four congresswomen by name, it’s clear that the tweets were aimed at Democratic U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota — all of them women of color born in this country except Omar, who is a naturalized citizen, originally from Somalia.

Shenna Bellows, the executive director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, says it’s important for public officials to speak up in situations like this.

“Racist and xenophobic comments, public tweets like this are no question incidents of bias, it’s bias-based bullying and speech, and our elected officials have a moral obligation to show a better path,” she says.

Around the country, Republicans have been mostly silent about the president’s attack, but Democrats have been swift to denounce it. Here in Maine, Democratic 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said the president’s language crosses the line of acceptability.

“For him to say ‘go back to where you came from.’ I mean, which was racist. I mean most of the people he referred to were born in the United States,” she said.

Pingree said Trump’s rhetoric has no place in political discourse. Disagreeing on issues is one thing, she said, and questioning the patriotism of members of Congress is another.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday that the House will be holding a vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s comments. Pingree said she’ll support it.

“I think it is time to move forward on censuring what he is saying. Any other president, any other time, I think Congress, both sides of the aisle would have stepped forward,” she said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine issued a statement critical of Trump’s tweets, and in an interview said she does not think a censure resolution will accomplish anything. She also was critical of some of the policy statements of the four congresswomen.

“But, that does not in anyway change my view that the president’s tweet was horrendous,” she said, calling it “way over the line” and urging the president to take it down.

Appearing on MSNBC, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine called the comments “outrageous,” adding that almost everyone in America is from somewhere else. He said Trump’s statements reminded him of a dark chapter in American history, during the 1950s, when Sen. Joseph McCarthy attempted to root out suspected Communists in government and show business.

“The first thought I had when I saw that was Robert M. Welsh in the Army-McCarthy hearings. ‘Have you no decency, sir?’” King said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd District said he often disagrees on policy with the four progressive women members of the House, but said the language used by Trump is “race-baiting.” He said in a statement that the president is “looking for a fight so that he can divide and distract the American people and the media. We shouldn’t take the bait.”

Golden was not available for an interview. There has been no timetable set for the consideration of the censure motion in the House.

Originally published July 15, 2019 at 2:03 p.m. ET.