President Donald Trump used “racist language” that is further dividing Americans when he suggested four women in Congress could leave the country if they don’t like it, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said Thursday.
“To use racist language, and it was that — I’m not calling the president a racist, but he used racist language to do this — this is the same kind of dog whistle politics that we have seen before,” Jones said during a conference phone call with reporters.
“But folks, we have to resist the pull of the forces that are trying to divide us,” Jones said. “We need to come together as one America and work together to live up to the lofty ideals our country was founded on.
“Attacking the patriotism of other Americans using hateful rhetoric and dog whistle messages doesn’t get us any closer to achieving those unifying principles.”
Jones became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in 25 years when he defeated Republican Roy Moore in a special election in December 2017. He is seeking election to a full term in 2020.
Trump has overwhelming support in Alabama, and he has called on Republicans to see that Jones is defeated next year.
Jones said the nation united around man’s first moon landing 50 years ago this week, and he suggested it is time to rekindle that spirit.
“Every day, we have to resolve ourselves — no matter what the president is tweeting, no matter what is going on in the news — to choose unity over division,” he said. “We have to choose to respect the dignity of our fellow Americans, even if we disagree with them on certain issues. At the end of the day, we are all Americans, and we all want this country to be the best version of itself.”
He said he doesn’t agree politically with the women who were criticized by the president, but he supports their right to free speech.
“President Trump was the leader of criticizing how this government was run during President Obama, and no one ever asked him to go somewhere else,” Jones said. “It was his right to do that. It helped propel him into the presidency. We can’t use this kind of language. In Alabama especially, we have seen too much of that language. It causes hurt, it causes pain, and in some cases if we are not careful it will cause violence.”
Trump Crowd Chants ‘Send Her Back’
Trump tweeted on July 14 that the four Democratic House members — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – can leave the United States if they don’t like it.
Trump said the four “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” and suggested “they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Omar came to the United States from Somalia when she was a child, and the other three were born in America.
At a political rally Wednesday in Greenville, North Carolina, a crowd of Trump supporters chanted “Send her back” after the president criticized the group and mentioned Rep. Omar specifically.
“They never have anything good to say,” the president told the crowd. “That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave.’”
Later, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he did not approve of the crowd’s chanting and that he was “not happy with it. I disagree with it. But again, I didn’t say that. They did. But I disagree with it.”
The House of Representatives on Tuesday condemned Trump’s tweet as racist.
Sewell Criticizes Trump, Palmer Defends Him But Didn’t Like Tweets
Other members of Alabama’s congressional delegation were divided in their reaction to the controversy.
“The president’s attacks are overtly racist,” Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat, tweeted on Tuesday. “These Congresswomen are U.S. citizens who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution [and] improve our nation. To say their voices don’t belong [because] of the color of their skin is below the dignity of the presidency.”
On Thursday, Sewell responded to the president’s rally in North Carolina: “Over and over, Pres. Trump has proven his contempt for women and others who stand up to his bullying and hatred.”
Republican Rep. Gary Palmer issued a statement supporting the president, but saying Trump’s comments were “ill-timed and insensitive, but not racist.”
“The hypocrisy is glaringly apparent when you consider that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted, ‘This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants,’ and that Representative Ilhan Omar recently tweeted that support for Israel was ‘all about the Benjamins,’” Palmer said.
“Instead of wasting time on comments made on a Twitter account, we should be focused on addressing the issues that are of greatest concern to Americans, including the crisis at our southern border,” he said. “This is what we have been elected to do. We have not been elected as the social media police.”
Jones called on members of both parties to condemn rhetoric that divides the nation.
“I truly in my heart believe the arc of the moral universe will ultimately bend towards justice, but that’s going to require each of us to stand up and condemn these kinds of attacks, no matter which side of the political aisle they come from,” he said “Attacking the patriotism of other Americans, especially members of Congress, using hateful rhetoric and dog whistle messages doesn’t get us any closer to achieving those unifying principals,” he said.