Donald Trump denies he is racist amid ‘go back’ tweets controversy
US president urges Republicans not to vote for resolution to condemn his remarks
Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to label President Trump’s comments as racist. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA
The controversy over Donald Trump’s criticism of four non-white members of Congress continued on Tuesday as the US president defended his racially-charged comments, denying he was a racist.
“I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on a resolution on Tuesday night condemning his remarks.
Mr Trump drew censure internationally and among Democrats after he told the group of congresswomen to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” in a series of weekend tweets.
On Tuesday he defended his comments, urging Republicans not to fall into a “trap” by voting for the Democratic-backed House resolution, which would condemn Mr Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimised increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of colour”.
“The Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate, & yet they get a free pass and a big embrace from the Democrat Party,” Mr Trump tweeted.
“Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!”
Most Republicans looked set to vote against the resolution scheduled for Tuesday evening, with many senior members of the party stopping short of condemning Mr Trump’s comments as racist, despite public outcry.
In his first public comments on the matter, which has dominated the news cycle in the United States, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to label the president’s comments as racist, even as reporters pointed out that his wife, transport secretary Elaine Chao, emigrated to the United States from China.
“I think everybody ought to tone down their rhetoric,” he said at a press conference. “The president’s not a racist. And I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country. But it’s coming from all ideological points of view . . . to single out any segment of this I think is a mistake.”
He said that his own wife had come to the US aged eight, legally, without a word of English and “realised the American dream”. “I am a big fan of legal immigration,” he said.
White House aide Kellyanne Conway also stoked controversy when she asked a reporter: “What is your ethnicity?” during an impromptu interchange with members of the media at the White House. Noting that her own ancestors were from Ireland and Italy, she said that the president was referring to the ancestry of the members of Congress, not their country of birth, when he suggested they go back to the countries they came from.
Three of the four congresswoman targeted by the US president were born in the US and all four are US citizens. Though he did not mention the four Congresswomen by name, Mr Trump was referring to four recently-elected members of the House of Representatives – New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
Mr Trump has refused to back down from his controversial comments, revisiting the issue several times on Twitter on Tuesday, and also reaffirming his view that they should leave the country if they don’t like America during a lunchtime press event at the White House.
Speaking at the launch of a new immigration plan proposed by his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, Mr Trump repeated his view that the four congresswomen “hate our country,” accusing them of making the “most vile, horrible statements about our country, about Israel, about others”.
“It’s up to them. Do what they want. They can leave. They can stay. They should love our country, and they should work for the good of our country,” he said.