WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump came under fire from Democrats and even some members of his own Republican Party on Monday after launching an extraordinary xenophobic attack on four progressive Democratic congresswomen.
“All they do is complain,” Trump told reporters at a White House event featuring products “Made in America.”
“These are people that hate our country,” he said of the four lawmakers. “If you’re not happy here, you can leave.”
Trump also accused the four first-term congresswomen – who are of Hispanic, Arab, Somali and African American origin – of having “love” for US “enemies like Al-Qaeda.”
Asked by a reporter whether he was concerned that many people saw his comments as racist, Trump said: “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”
Several hours after his remarks, the four – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – hit back at a news conference.
Pressley condemned Trump’s “xenophobic and bigoted” comments and said “we will not be silenced.”
Omar said Trump made a “blatantly racist attack” on four lawmakers “of color.” “This is the agenda of white nationalists,” she said.
Omar and Tlaib repeated calls for Trump to be impeached.
Democratic congressman Al Green, of Texas, separately said he would bring an impeachment vote to the House floor this month “for bigotry in policy, harmful to our society.”
The president first attacked the lawmakers – all but one of whom were born in America – with a series of tweets on Sunday, saying they should “go back” to their countries of origin.
His comments prompted critical reactions from foreign leaders, and outrage at home from Democrats – while Republicans were initially silent.
On Monday, several of his party faithful began to speak up.
“My view is that what was said and what was tweeted was destructive, was demeaning, was disunifying, and frankly it was very wrong,” said Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah.
“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments – they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska. “We must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency.”
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she disagreed with the policies espoused by the “far-left” Democratic lawmakers, but that Trump was “way over the line.”
For Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, “the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine.” He said “they are entitled to their opinions, however misguided they may be.”
Texan Will Hurd, the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, told CNN that Trump’s behavior was “unbecoming of the leader of the free world.”
And Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican from South Carolina, criticized the president for using “unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language.”