On Thursday, Donald President Trump sought to distance himself from his supporters who yelled “send her back,” referencing a congresswoman born in Somalia whom Trump had earlier targeted with a racist tweet. “I disagree with it,” Trump said of the chant aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
The president soon made it clear, though, that he had no intention of backing away from blistering criticism of Omar and three other minority congresswomen.
On Thursday night, Trump retweeted a fiery fire-minute commentary from a Fox News guest who called the women “anti-Semite bigots” and said that “their families really have done nothing for this country.”
The clip was also shared by the official account of the White House, a taxpayer-funded feed that is generally less pugnacious than Trump’s personal handle.
In the clip from Fox News host Sean Hannity’s Thursday night show, conservative radio host Mark Levin defends Trump’s attacks on Omar and fellow freshman Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Although Omar, a Somali refugee, became an American citizen at 17, and the other three were born in the U.S., Trump on Sunday suggested that they “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The suggestion echoed a long-standing racist trope.
Levin, employing a talking point often used by the president, instead homes in on claims of anti-Semitism against the congresswomen.
“He didn’t talk about race, he didn’t talk about skin color, he didn’t talk about religion. He talked about them, the content, or lack thereof, of their character,” Levin says in the clip. “On the other hand … they are degrading an entire faith, an entire people, Jews, Israelis.”
Omar has criticized the role of the Israeli lobby and apologized for suggesting that money motivates politicians to back Israel. Both she and Tlaib support the divisive BDS movement, for boycott, divestment and sanctions, which aims to economically pressure Israel to grant more rights to Palestinians. Ocasio-Cortez has also faced criticism for comparing U.S. Border Patrol detainment facilities to concentration camps.
Trump regularly cites those controversies in his relentless criticism of the women. Facing criticism over his racist tweets this week, he lashed out at Omar by claiming that she “hates Jews, hates Israel.” That message left some Jewish leaders, including the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, concerned that the president was using claims of anti-Semitism to mask his own intemperate remarks.
Levin makes an argument similar to the president’s, saying that “the evidence is overwhelming that these women are anti-Semite bigots.”
But he also more broadly hints at the president’s suggestion that the congresswomen are un-American.
“Their families really have done nothing for this country,” Levin says. “I’m going to be very blunt about it, I don’t know what they’ve done in support of this country.”
Levin also argues that Trump’s record belies claims of racism, noting the president’s order to hit Syria with missile strikes to prevent gas attacks on civilians and his backing of other military ventures in Muslim nations. “It’s this commander in chief that oversees the War in Afghanistan to protect Muslims from the Taliban,” Levin says.
Trump’s decision to share the clip not only with his own 62.1 million followers but also through @WhiteHouse, which has 18.8 million followers — and his official @POTUS account, which retweeted it to 26.3 million more — suggests that a week of withering criticism, including some from within his party, isn’t likely to slow his attacks on Omar and her colleagues.
The White House account often reflects a more straightforward take on policy than Trump’s freewheeling @realDonaldTrump handle. As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted in 2017, the White House account has regularly stuck to orchestrated themes, like Infrastructure Week, while Trump all but ignored policy in his own tweets.
Trump’s administration has faced some criticism for its use of the accounts, which have retweeted patently false Trump claims and his attacks on a business that dropped his daughter’s clothing line, as well as amplified misleading claims against Democratic candidates.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Tim Elfrink