“Yes, President Trump is a racist,” he told ABC News. “What we saw in North Carolina last week was almost an impromptu Nuremberg rally, inciting hatred and ultimately, I think implicit in that, is violence against people based on the color of their skin, based on their religion, based on their difference from the majority of Americans.”
Last Wednesday, Trump singled out Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) during his speech in Greenville, prompting the crowd to erupt into chants of “send her back.” Omar immigrated to the U.S. as a child and is an American citizen.
It was just one of several attacks by the president on lawmakers of color, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), which appeared to begin with a Twitter tirade last week when he suggested progressive Democrats “go back” to “the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas who launched an unsuccessful bid for Senate against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz in 2018, said Trump’s language lined up with his repeated demonization of minority groups.
“It is in keeping the President who describes Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, who describes asylum-seekers as animals or an infestation, who says that Klansmen are ‘very fine people,’” O’Rourke said. “It’s very clear the path that he is taking us on.”
Trump attempted to distance himself from the chants on Thursday, telling reporters he “felt a bit badly about it” and that he disagreed with it, even though he took a 13-second pause from his speech at the rally while silently allowing the racist shouts to continue. He made no attempt to stop it.
On Friday, he reversed his stance, defending his supporters as “incredible patriots.”
In an interview with CBS News released Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence was given the opportunity to strongly condemn the chant, but neglected to do so, offering no guarantee Trump would stop the line from being uttered in the future.
“The president was very clear that he wasn’t happy about it, and that if it happened again, he might ― he might ― he’d make an effort to speak out about it,” Pence said.
O’Rourke warned that inaction would eventually be met with consequences.
“Silence is complicity in what the president is doing, and there will be an accounting, there will be a reckoning, there will be justice for this sooner or later,” he said.