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McConnell Defends Trump After Racist Tweets About Congresswomen

Michelle Hanks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended President Trump on Tuesday, days after the president tweeted that a group of Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

McConnell declined to directly address Trump’s statement, instead saying that political rhetoric has gotten “way overheated all across the political spectrum,” focusing on statements made by Democrats.

“We’ve heard facilities on the U.S. border called concentration camps, we’ve seen the far-left throw accusations of racism at everyone. Anyone who disagrees with them on anything, including the speaker of the house,” McConnell said.

Trump’s tweets were apparently targeting Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

All are U.S. citizens and racial minorities. Only Omar was born outside the United States.

McConnell has avoided openly criticizing the president and had remained silent about Trump’s inflammatory comments since they were posted on Saturday.

When asked if McConnell would consider Trump’s comments racist if they had been directed at his wife, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, he refused to respond, except to say that she came to the country legally.

“I’m obviously a big fan of legal immigration. It’s been a big part of my family for a quarter of a century,” McConnell said.

When directly asked if Trump’s comments were racist, McConnell said “the president is not a racist.”

“The tone of all of this is not good for the country. But it’s coming from all different ideological points of view. That’s the point. To single out any segment of this I think is a mistake,” McConnell said.

Kentucky’s 1st district Congressman James Comer, a Republican, defended Trump on the PBS News Hour Monday night, arguing that the president’s tweets weren’t racist.

“I think there’s a level of frustration that the president has that he, unfortunately, took out in a probably not the best-worded tweet. But I think that the tweet has been overblown, and I think that we really need to move on and talk about the issues in Congress that the American people care about,” Comer said.

Rep. John Yarmuth, Kentucky’s lone Democrat in congress, accused Trump of “exploiting racist hate” on Twitter.

“Looking forward to the day our nation is no longer led by this racist, ignorant, hate-mongering wannabe dictator,” Yarmuth wrote.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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