President Donald Trump on Monday doubled down on his criticism of several minority congresswomen, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who he said should “go back” to the countries they came from, standing by his weekend comments that Gov. Charlie Baker called “shameful and racist.”
The roiling controversy, with Pressley of Dorchester at the center, only intensified Monday when Trump said he was not bothered that some people took his comments to be racist.
Baker twice on Monday, at separate events, repudiated the president.
“The tweets were shameful and racist and there’s no place for them in public discourse,” Baker said after a meeting with Democratic legislative leaders at the State House.
He continued, “One of the things we all do when we get into public life is we make clear we’re going to listen to everybody and we’re going to respect everybody and we may or may not choose to agree with everybody but the bottom line here is you are a public servant and if you’re in a job where you’re a public servant you should behave that way and tweets like that send a horrid, debilitating, hateful message that there’s just no place for in public discourse.”
Trump on Sunday used Twitter to respond to four outspoken women of color in Congress who have been frequent critics of him and his administration, writing that they “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe...”
The president went on to write that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Although he didn’t mention them by name, it was widely understood that Trump was talking about Pressley, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
Only Omar was born outside of the United States, in Somalia. Pressley is originally from Chicago.
“This is what racism looks like. We are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify every day,” Pressley said in response.
Trump continued his criticism of the congresswomen on Monday, suggesting that they “hate” America and Israel. When asked at a White House event if he was concerned that some people thought his comments were racist, he said, “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me. And all I’m saying is if they want to leave, they can leave.”
Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Talib held a press conference Monday evening to respond to the president and Pressley told people to not “take the bait” the president threw out on Twitter.
“This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to address,” Pressley said.
Meanwhile, Baker said his response to the situation would have been the same even if a member of the Massachusetts delegation, albeit someone from a different political party, wasn’t the target of Trump’s comments.
“There just no place for that stuff and it’s disgraceful,” Baker said.
Asked if Republicans in Washington and around the country are sending that message loudly enough, Baker said, “I hope that other people in the party do because I would assume that everybody whether you’re Democratic, Republican or independent, whatever, if you’re serving in public life you must know that a big part of your job is to represent everybody.”
US.Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who is being challenged for re-election in 2020, said Trump should take the tweet down, but also highlighted her disagreements with the four Democrats involved. Collins is the only Republican left in Congress from New England.
“I disagree strongly with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus – especially when it comes to their views on socialism, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their negative comments about law enforcement – but the president’s tweet that some members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down,” Collins said.
US Rep. Joseph Kennedy was not impressed with Collins’s statement. “You should be able to condemn racism without a caveat,” Kennedy said on Twitter.
US Rep. Seth Moulton, who is running for president, also called out Collins for playing both sides. “I’m just spitballing here, but maybe don’t use half of your statement to condemn the victims of racism rather than the racist,” he tweeted.