Republicans Can’t Explain Why They’re Condemning the Racism of Trump’s Supporters But Not Trump’s

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GREENVILLE, NC - JULY 17: Supporters of President Donald Trump cheer as he speaks during a Keep America Great rally on July 17, 2019 in Greenville, North Carolina. Trump is speaking in North Carolina only hours after The House of Representatives voted down an effort from a Texas Democrat to impeach the President. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Supporters of President Donald Trump cheer as he speaks during a Keep America Great rally on July 17, 2019 in Greenville, North Carolina.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

President Trump’s supporters broke into a “send her back!” chant directed at Ilhan Omar during his rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Wednesday night — and guess what? Republicans are very concerned.

So troubled were some members of the party’s leadership in the House of Representatives, Politico reported on Thursday, that they convened with Vice President Mike Pence over breakfast to express their discomfort, urging him to relay their concerns to the president. He must have gotten the message, as Trump told reporters at the White House that he actually was “not happy” and “disagrees” with the racist chant his racist tweets and comments inspired Wednesday night, and which he did absolutely nothing to stop, instead pausing for nearly 15 seconds to allow the chant to be better heard.

Here’s a sampling of what the distressed House Republicans have said about the chant:

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the chant has “no place in our party and no place in this country.” On Tuesday, McCarthy defended the president’s no-less-racist tweets, chalking the attacks up to nothing more than an ideological dispute.
  • Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), a former pastor who attended the rally, said that Republicans need to “make sure we are not defined by that,” referencing the chant. On Wednesday night, Walker tweeted that he “struggled” with it.

Rep. Mark Walker@RepMarkWalker

Though it was brief, I struggled with the “send her back” chant tonight referencing Rep. Omar. Her history, words & actions reveal her great disdain for both America & Israel. That should be our focus and not phrasing that’s painful to our friends in the minority communities.5,52211:01 AM – Jul 18, 2019 Twitter Ads info and privacy 27.1K people are talking about this

  • Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said that Vice President Pence seemed to be as “appalled” by the chant as everyone else.
  • Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) specifically requested a meeting with Pence to discuss the chant, and told Politico that while he’s fine with a “lock her up!” chant, “send her back!” crosses the line and “is simply not reflective of our constitution.”
  • Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that “there’s no place for that kind of talk.” While speaking to reporters the following day, he said there’s “not a racist bone in the president’s body.”
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeted that though he disagrees with the “extreme left,” he woke up “equally disgusted” at the chant, writing that it would “send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers.”

Adam Kinzinger@RepKinzinger

I deeply disagree with the extreme left & have been disgusted by their tone. I woke up today equally disgusted – chants like “send her back” are ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.22K9:16 PM – Jul 18, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy12.8K people are talking about this

On Tuesday, every one of these moralizing lawmakers had an opportunity to vote for a House resolution to condemn Trump’s racist attacks against Omar and the three other congresswomen of color the president told to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” before they criticize his administration.

They all declined to do so.

In total, only four of 197 House Republicans supported the resolution. Among those who opposed it was Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who on Monday tweeted that Trump’s comments “were racist” while calling for the president to apologize. “We must work as a country to rise above hate, not enable it,” Turner wrote.

What a difference a day makes.

When reached for comment, Turner said only that the “resolution on the floor was a political stunt by Nancy Pelosi that I do not support.”

Emails to the press offices of Reps. Walker, Mitchell, and Emmer seeking clarity on how they reconcile their disgust over the “send her back!” chant with their defense of Trump’s tweets did not receive immediate replies. McCarthy said in a statement to Rolling Stone that though the chants “have no place in our party or our country,” the president’s tweets were “referring to the love of this country, and said if you don’t love this country you can leave.”  

A representative for Kinzinger provided a statement explaining why he voted against the House resolution on Tuesday, his rationale hinging on an objection to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi breaking “the very rules of the institution she leads” by calling the president’s comments “racist.” This linguistic infraction on the House floor somehow played a larger role in determining his vote than the president’s comments, which he also disparaged. “I have said time and again that I strongly disagree with the President on tone and his use of Twitter, and I believe his tweet this weekend was wrong and dangerously divisive,” he wrote.

“Simply put, we can and must do better,” Kinzinger concluded. He was referencing Pelosi’s indiscretion, not the president.

This post has been updated.


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