During explosive testimony from President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Wednesday, Republicans sought to defend the president against allegations of racism by using a black woman as a political prop.
Former attorney Michael Cohen spoke to members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to discuss his 10-year relationship with Trump and in his opening statement said he witnessed racist behavior by his former boss.
“Mr. Trump is a racist,” Cohen said. “The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States.”
Driving through a poor neighborhood, Trump once commented that “only black people could live that way” and that “black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid,” Cohen said.
In an attempt to refute the claim, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) introduced Lynne Patton, who was appointed by Trump to be the New York–New Jersey regional administrator for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She has no prior experience in the field and was previously an event planner who helped plan Eric Trump’s wedding.
“I asked Lynne to come today in her personal capacity to actually shed some light,” Meadows said as she stood behind him. “You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism. She says as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was a racist.”
Meadows then claimed there’s no way Trump could be racist, because he had met with Trump more than “300 times” and never heard anything racist.
When it was time for Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) to speak, she criticized Patton and Meadows.
“I just want to put on the record, as being a black American and having endured the public comments of racism from the sitting president, as being a black person, I can only imagine what’s being said in private,” Lawrence said. “And to prop up one member of our entire race of black people and say that that nullifies that is truly insulting, and in this environment of expecting a president to be inclusive and to look at his administration speaks volumes.”
Patton later told reporter Yamiche Alcindor that she felt good standing up for Trump and that “he doesn’t see color, sex, race, creed, religion, so that’s what makes things go uncomfortable for other people.”
Despite what Meadows must have considered an airtight defense, Trump’s long track record of racism — from his company’s discrimination against black prospective renters in the 1970s to his labeling Mexican immigrants as criminals to his repeated insistence that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S. — is easily documented and gets longer every day.
Patton sat down without saying anything. The testimony continued, and Meadows’ attempts to paint the president as anything but racist landed with a thud.
This story has been updated to include comments from Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Lynne Patton.