U.S. President Donald Trump faced swift condemnation on Sunday after saying that several Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” and then “come back and show us how it is done.”
“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he said in a barrage of tweets.
Trump did not reference the women by name, but his tweet was widely interpreted as a reference to a group of four newly elected congresswomen of colour who are among his strongest critics.
The group, known collectively as The Squad, includes Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Abdullahi Omar, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Only Omar, from Somalia, is foreign-born.
WATCH: Trump to congresswomen — ‘go back’ where you came from
The congresswomen criticized Trump’s rhetoric as a racist and xenophobic attack.
“THIS is what racism looks like,” Pressley said in a tweet. “WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to D.C. to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday.”
Ocasio-Cortez said Trump is “angry because he can’t conceive of an America that includes us.”
On her Twitter page, Omar wrote: “You are stoking white nationalism (because) you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting your hate-filled agenda.”
Tlaib said, “Keep talking, you just make me work harder. I’m proud of my Palestinian roots (and) a WEAK bully like you never wins.”
Democratic presidential candidates including Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Bill de Blasio and Kamala Harris called out Trump’s statement.
“Let’s call the president’s racist attack exactly what it is: un-American,” said Harris, a California senator.
WATCH: Kamala Harris calls Trump tweet ‘racist and unAmerican’
Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a Trump critic who recently took steps to leave the party, called the remarks “racist and disgusting.”
Filmmaker Ava Duvernay saluted the women and encouraged them to “stay a pain in the a – – to the #RacistInChief and all his cohorts.”
Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was asked about the tweets on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“You’re going to have to ask the president what he means by those specific tweets,” he said.
Trump’s tweets also quickly drew a response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the president wants to make America “white again.”
With his remarks, Trump again inserted himself into a growing rift between Pelosi and the congresswomen, after offering an unsolicited defence of the Democratic speaker days earlier. Pelosi has been seeking to minimize the influence of Ocasio-Cortez in recent days.
On Sunday evening, Trump weighed in on the backlash, attacking Democrats who spoke out against his remarks.
“So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our country,” he said.
With files from the Associated Press