In remarks to reporters on Monday afternoon, Donald Trump took his signature inflammatory rhetoric to a new level in televised remarks to reporters at an event convened to boost “buy America” requirements.
Republicans are silently reeling from a national outcry tied to a series of racist tweets Trump sent Sunday targeting firebrand congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, collectively known as “The Squad”.
Specifically, Trump advised the four women (three of whom were born in the United States) to “go back and help fix the… crime infested places from which they came”. “You can’t leave fast enough”, he added.
While the tweets were a xenophobic tour de force, they doubled as an implicit endorsement of Nancy Pelosi. The speaker has struggled to rein in The Squad’s ambition – together, they command a massive social media following. Ocasio-Cortez and, to a lesser extent, Omar, are bonafide celebrities.
“I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”, Trump said Sunday, in a blatant effort to foster further divisions within the Democratic party.
Pelosi’s rejoinder was not forceful. Rather, the speaker offered little more than a boilerplate condemnation of Trump’s platform that suggested she isn’t prepared to go to political war to protect four women of color pressing an agenda that makes centrist Democrats uncomfortable.
On Monday morning, Trump doubled and tripled down on his attacks, helped along by Lindsey Graham, who, during an interview with Fox & Friends, called Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley “a bunch of communists” who hate America (literally).
Fast forward a couple of hours and, in response to shouted questions at the White House, Trump said anyone who isn’t happy in America “can leave, as far as I’m concerned”.
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He proceeded to explain that “a lot of people” loved his Sunday tweets and feigned incredulity that anyone would think his remarks were controversial.
The president then pressed the issue. “You can leave. Come back if you want, don’t come back, that’s ok too”, he snapped.
Then, he said this:
Even for a man whose claim to fame is indulging in inflammatory rhetoric, that is beyond the pale. On Monday, a sitting US president accused a sitting US congresswoman of “hating jews” and “loving al-Qaeda”.
Trump went on to repeat the lie that Omar deliberately downplayed the events of 9/11. That, for those unaware, is a gross mischaracterization and it is the second time Trump has deliberately deployed these tactics.
In April, he posted a video on Twitter featuring a soundbite (taken out of context) from a speech Omar gave in March followed by graphic images of 9/11. The president’s tweet served to amplify a New York Post cover which featured the same quote juxtaposed with a still shot of a plane combusting as it scythed through one of the Towers. Here is what Omar actually said:
For far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and, frankly, I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties. So you can’t just say that today someone is looking at me strange and that I am trying to make myself look pleasant. You have to say that this person is looking at me strange, I am not comfortable with it, and I am going to talk to them and ask them why. Because that is the right you have.
(Incidentally, Omar “misspoke” – The Council on American-Islamic Relations was founded in 1994, not after 9/11. A spokesperson said she meant to emphasize that the group’s membership grew after the attacks.)
As you can see from that verbatim quote, Trump’s efforts to suggest that Omar’s “some people” comments were delivered with malice are a patent falsehood.
At the 1:00 timestamp in the video above, Trump repeatedly demands that a journalist “be quiet” (in an increasingly threatening tone) before escalating things further still:
“We’re at war with al-Qaeda and [Omar] is somebody talking about how great al-Qaeda is”, Trump claimed.
That too is a disgusting lie. Here is what Omar actually said during a 2013 interview with Twin Cities PBS, in Minnesota:
When I was in college, I took a terrorism class [and] 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 because you want that word to carry weight. You want it to be something. When you have an individual in a Western society [who] commits mass murder, we investigate that person and what has driven them to commit that act. When an act is committed by Muslim terrorists, what we investigate is that whole community, we investigate that whole faith, we investigate that whole society, and everyone is supposed to have some answer as to why these people are doing this. It is those individuals that people need to be investigating. It is their lives that need to be under the microscope, not the lives of the whole community.
Again, that is a verbatim quote. The fact of the matter is that Donald Trump is explicitly tying a sitting US congresswoman to al-Qaeda by knowingly misrepresenting her remarks to the American people. He is, for lack of a better way to explain the situation, tacitly calling Omar a terrorist.
Generally speaking, Trump is endangering the lives of all four congresswomen and especially that of Omar. He should be held to account for his words. He is, after all, the President of the United States, someone who is entrusted with the country’s values and the safety of all citizens.
We’ll leave you with Ilhan in her own words:
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