WASHINGTON ― The four Democratic congresswomen whom President Donald Trump told to “go back” to their home countries held a press conference Monday, calling out Trump’s attacks as “blatantly racist” and “the agenda of white nationalists.”
“When people say, ’If you say a negative thing about this country, you hate this country,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said, referring to comments Trump made earlier in the day, “to me, it sort of speaks to the hypocrisy.”
Omar, who was one of the four congresswomen Trump targeted in his racist tweet thread on Sunday, noted that the president spent much of his campaign talking about what he perceived as wrong with the United States.
“And so for him to condemn us and to say we are un-American for wanting to work hard to make this country be the country we all deserve to live in, it’s complete hypocrisy,” Omar said.
Omar was joined by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) in a press conference Monday evening to respond to the president’s criticism.
Trump tweeted Sunday morning that the four freshmen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
“Then come back and show us how it is done,” Trump said in his series of tweets. “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”
The president doubled down on his remarks Monday during a press conference. He said the four congresswomen hate America, that he didn’t know who was going to miss them, and that the lawmakers “came from governments that are a complete and total catastrophe,” even though three of the four women were born in the United States.
“If you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave,” Trump said. “You can leave. You can leave right now. Come back if you want. Don’t come back, that’s OK too. But if you’re not happy, you can leave.”
Even though Trump’s remarks have been widely recognized as racist, the president doesn’t seem to care.
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said. “And all I’m saying — they want to leave, they can leave.”
Omar responded to this specific idea, saying that every black or brown person in the U.S. has been told to “go back” to their home country.
The four congresswomen condemned the president’s rhetoric, but none of them seemed surprised by Trump’s words.
“He is, if nothing else, predictable,” Pressley said.
Omar added that, instead of focusing on “the bile of garbage that comes out of his mouth,” Democrats should act. She urged leadership and her Democratic colleagues to move forward with impeachment, a call the other three congresswomen echoed.
“We all know the tweets and words from the president are simply a continuation of his racist and xenophobic playbook,” Tlaib said. “We cannot allow these hateful actions to distract us from the critical work to hold this administration accountable.”
While the congresswomen were there to address Trump’s attacks on them, they also used the press conference as an opportunity to criticize the administration’s harsh treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, and to take subtle shots at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“We are more than four people,” Pressley said at one point, in apparent response to Pelosi’s comments that the “squad” is “just four people.”
“Our squad is big,” Pressley said. “Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world.”
The four congresswomen and Pelosi are split on how to best address the humanitarian crisis at the border, a disagreement that Pressley seemed to reference at one point. “If we improve the conditions of children in a cage, they are still in a cage,” Pressley said.
Pelosi, who was quick to denounce Trump’s tweets, drafted a letter to her colleagues saying Trump had gone “beyond his own low standards using disgraceful language about Members of Congress.” She added that Democrats planned to “forcefully respond” to the president’s attack by putting a resolution denouncing his words on the House floor.
Such a response will do little — if anything — to actually curb the president’s behavior, but Pelosi has shown repeatedly that she is opposed to launching an impeachment inquiry.
Ocasio-Cortez, who has spoken more directly about her disagreement with Pelosi in recent days, said the reason she fights to make the United States better is because she loves it.
“We love all people in this country, and that’s why we believe health care is a human right,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We love all children in this country, and because we do, that’s why we fight for all children through college.”
“And so we’ll stay focused on our agenda,” she said, “and we won’t get caught slippin’.”