GREENVILLE, North Carolina (AP) — Going after four United States (US) Democratic congresswomen one by one, a combative President Donald Trump turned his campaign rally into an extended dissection of the liberal views of the women of colour, deriding them for what he painted as extreme positions and suggesting they just get out.
“Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” Trump told the crowd in North Carolina, a swing state he won in 2016 and wants to claim again in 2020. “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ’em leave, let ’em leave’.”
Eager to rile up his base with the some of the same kind of rhetoric he targetted at minorities and women in 2016, Trump declared on Wednesday night, “I think in some cases they hate our country.”
Trump’s jabs were aimed at the self-described “squad” of four freshmen Democrats who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump: Representatives. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the US except for Omar, who came to the US as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.
Taking the legislators on one at a time, Trump ticked through a laundry list of what he deemed offensive comments by each woman, mangling and misconstruing many facts along the way.
Omar came under the harshest criticism as Trump played to voters’ grievances, drawing a chant from the crowd of “Send her back! Send her back!”
She responded on Wednesday night with a series of tweets, including one quoting Maya Angelou’s defiant poem, “Still I Rise,” with the words “You may shoot me with your words… But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
“I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!” she wrote in another.
Trump set off a firestorm last Sunday when he tweeted that the four should “go back” to their home countries — though three were born in the US. Trump has accused them of “spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician.”
In a lighter moment, Trump wondered if Pressley was related to Elvis Presley, then pivoted to more serious points, claiming she thought people of colour should “think the same.”
As for Omar, Trump unfurled a whole list of complaints, including a false accusation that she voiced pride in al-Qaeda.
Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he’s “winning the political argument” and “winning it by a lot.”
“If people want to leave our country, they can. If they don’t want to love our country, if they don’t want to fight for our country, they can,” Trump said. “I’ll never change on that.”
Trump’s harsh denunciations were another sign of his willingness to exploit the nation’s racial divisions heading into the 2020 campaign.