A former Obama-era staffer’s first ever tweet about respect in the White House in response to U.S. President Donald Trump‘s reportedly racially charged comments caused a major stir on Twitter.
Gary Lee, a former assistant staff-secretary in Obama’s White House, said he was inspired to respond after reports that Trump appeared to base one woman’s potential career path on her ethnicity.
In an NBC report, officials said Trump asked an American-Korean intelligence analyst, “Where are you from?” and when her response of “New York” and “Manhattan” didn’t satisfy him, he continued asking, “Where are your people from?”
When she answered that her parents were Korean, the report says Trump asked another adviser in the room why the “pretty Korean lady” wasn’t part of the team dealing with North Korea negotiations.
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Lee, an American-Korean himself, said reports of the comments made earlier that week made it a good day to introduce himself on Twitter.
“I’ve never tweeted before but today felt like a good day to start,” he wrote on Saturday, which was also Korean American Day in the U.S.
The thread received over 5,700 retweets and over 161,000 likes – an impressive first tweet by anyone’s standards. (For comparison, Donald Trump’s latest tweet on Monday night was only liked around 72,000 times.)
“’Where are you from?’ is a question that many Asian Americans dread,” Lee continued.
He then explained that when he chose to leave his position at the White House for a Fulbright scholarship in Korea, it was to learn more about his heritage.
“On my last day, I went into the Oval Office and POTUS greeted me by saying, ‘안녕하세요’. Hello, in Korean,” he said, linking to a photo of the moment.
He said he recounted the experience with Kal Penn, ex-actor and former associate director of the White House, who pointed out how incredible the moment was.
“Think about what you just said. How incredible that is. On your last day of work at the White House, after your years of service, the first African-American president greeted you in your parents’ native language,” Penn said, according to Lee.
He then recounted how his parents moved from Korea and worked multiple jobs to provide for their family.
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“They sacrificed so we could achieve whatever we wanted to. They could have never imagined that their eldest son would work in the White House,” he wrote.
“In what other country is that even possible? In what other country are you allowed to dream, and despite all odds, pursue and achieve your dreams? In what country could a chubby, 90s Hip Hop and R&B-loving Asian kid from NM end up working for @BarackObama?
“What a beautiful, incredible nation of immigrants we are.”
The thread resonated with many people sharing and congratulating him.
You can read the full thread here.
Though the Korean-American comments were reportedly made in 2017, the report comes after other racially charged remarks Trump reportedly made, including calling some nations “shithole countries.”
Trump had been discussing a potential deal with a team of senators that would have restored protections for immigrants from Haiti, African countries and El Salvador, the Washington Post and others reported on Thursday night.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly asked senators.
Trump on Twitter denied he made the comment.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” he wrote.
In the past, other reports have also revealed Trump uttering racially charged statements.
A New York Times report from June 2016, showed the president ranting about the number of foreigners entering the U.S. to a handful of officials in the Oval Office.
Learning that 15,000 Haitians had received visas to enter the U.S. in 2017, Trump is said to have remarked that “they all have AIDS.” He then complained about 40,000 people arriving from Nigeria, who he said would never “go back to their huts” once they set their eyes on the U.S.