President Trump’s allies and critics sparred Sunday over his record on racial issues and his responsibility for a chant that broke out at his rally targeting a minority congresswoman.
At the same time Trump, exactly one week after the first round of tweets targeting four progressive Democratic representatives ignited a firestorm of criticism, re-upped his attacks on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
“I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country,” Trump tweeted. He also demanded they apologize to America and Israel for unspecified "horrible (hateful) things they have said."
I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2019
Trump’s allies took to the Sunday talk shows to defend not only his actions over the past week but also his record on race.
“If you want to have a colorblind society, it means you can criticize immigration policy, you can criticize people’s views, you can ask questions about where they’re born and not have it be seen as racial,” Stephen Miller, a top White House aide and Trump speechwriter, told Fox's Chris Wallace.
Wallace countered, “Can you also say, ‘Go back where you came from’?”
When Miller pointed to Trump's disavowal the next day of the chants of “send her back” aimed at Omar, Wallace noted Trump had allowed the chant to continue at the time.
The rally was held three days after the initial tweets last Sunday, in which Trump told the four congresswomen of color to “go back” to the “crime infested places” they came from. All four are U.S. citizens and all but Omar were born in the U.S.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) also defended Trump's attacks on the congresswomen's patriotism, saying that while the chant was "inappropriate," it was unrelated to race, gender or religion.
“These members of the House of Representatives — it's not just these four — fundamentally believe in policies that are dangerous for this nation, and as Republicans we're going to fight against those,” she said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Former White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp echoed Trump himself, disavowing the chants but defending the rally attendees, saying Trump "stands with those people in North Carolina, across the country who support him."
Both Schlapp and Miller also pointed to low African American unemployment as evidence of Trump’s policies benefiting people of color.
Democrats, meanwhile, blasted Trump's comments and the chants on the Sunday morning talk shows. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said on both CBS' "Face the Nation" and CNN's "State of the Union" that Trump was "worse than a racist."
"He is actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gains, trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself," Booker told "State of the Union" guest host Dana Bash.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also took aim at Trump and called the attacks part of a political strategy.
"I think tragically the president has decided racism is good politics,” Schiff said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”
House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said on ABC's "This Week" that the tweets left “no doubt" that Trump was a racist.
"I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt but when I think about what he said to these young ladies who are merely trying to bring excellence to government … when I hear those things it takes me back" to the 1960s, Cummings said, adding he heard similar rhetoric when attempting to integrate a neighborhood swimming pool.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who has made his potential appeal to red states central to his presidential campaign, said that while he did not agree with all of the congresswomen's political views, "any parent, any preacher, knows that telling four duly elected congresswomen to go back home, it’s racist.”
Bullock added that the approximately 13 seconds Trump allowed the rally chant to continue before he began speaking again were "going to be a stain on this presidency."