President Donald Trump’s racist attack Sunday telling several Democratic congresswomen to go back to countries they came from (or, in reality, where their ancestors came from) was met with near total silence from top Republican officials on Monday.
Referring to several “Progressive Democratic Congresswoman,” Trump tweeted: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Trump doubled down Monday, speaking to members of the media. “These are people that if they don’t like it here, they can leave,” he said.
In the face of Trump’s particularly egregious racist attack on lawmakers, top Republicans in Congress stayed on the sidelines, declining to weigh in and condemn the President.
The top three Republicans leading both chamber of Congress failed to comment on Trump’s tweets as of Monday afternoon. TPM reached out to the top three leaders in the Senate — Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Thune (R-SD) and John Barrasso (R-WY) — and in the House — Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) — and did not receive a response from any of their offices.
Scalise, the House Minority Leader, told NBC News’ Alex Moe only that “We’re gunna talk about it more,” Moe reported.
According to TPM’s count, just a handful elected Republican lawmakers in the nation’s capital responded to Trump’s tweet at all. And one of those responses even defended the President.
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), CNN’s Haley Byrd flagged, called the comments “racist and xenophobic.” And Sen. Pay Toomey (R-PA) said Trump “was wrong” to tweet what he did. As did Rep. Chip Roy, though he wrote in the same tweet that “Reps who refuse to defend America should be sent home 11/2020.” Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) said “these comments are beneath leaders.” And Rep. Pete Olsen said Trump’s tweets “are not reflective of the values” of people in his district, urging the President to “immediately disavow his comments.”
One Republican congressman, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), defended Trump, calling the congresswomen racist and arguing that Trump’s tweet was not racist. “He could’ve meant go back to the district they came from, to the neighborhood they came from,” Harris wrote.
In addition to the near-silence from elected representatives, the two Republican congressional elections-focused organizations contacted by TPM — the National Republican Senate Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee — did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, RNC spokesperson Steve Guest didn’t respond directly to TPM’s questions about Trump’s tweets. Instead, accused Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) — congresswomen Trump is thought to have targeted with his tweets — of “repeatedly ma[king] anti-Semitic comments that disrespect Israel and the tragedy of the Holocaust.”
This blanket non-response to racism within the party isn’t new for the GOP: When Rep. Steve King (R-IA) retweeted a British neo-Nazi last June, TPM received no response to various requests for comment to elected officials and campaign organizations.
In response to an earlier racist comment from King, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said merely that “I would like to think he misspoke.” He hadn’t: King defended his comment, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” a day later on CNN.
When King’s comments eventually became too much for even GOP leadership — he appeared to defend the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” — the reaction was swift: Within a couple days, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) stripped King of his committee assignments.
This post has been updated.