Tensions boiled over in an argument about racism during Wednesday’s testimony from the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen.
The exchange between Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), which interrupted Cohen’s House committee testimony, concerned Meadows’ introduction earlier in the day of black HUD official Lynne Patton as a political prop to suggest President Donald Trump is not racist.
“I asked Lynne to come today in her personal capacity to actually shed some light,” Meadows said as Patton stood behind him silently. “[Cohen] 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.”
Those “demeaning” comments from Cohen included calling the president a racist and saying he once heard Trump say black people were “too stupid” to vote for him, among other examples.
Tlaib called out Meadows for recruiting Patton as a political prop.
“That someone would actually use a prop ― a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself,” Tlaib said before being interrupted by Meadows, who demanded that her comments be stricken from the record.
Tlaib clarified that she was not calling Meadows a racist but said his action in recruiting a black woman to deny Trump’s racism was itself a racist act.
“Just to make a note, just because someone has a person of color ― a black person ― working for them does not mean they aren’t racist, and it is insensitive that someone would say it is racist itself, and to use a black woman as a prop to prove otherwise,” she said.
Meadows replied by saying he has family members who are people of color, and he then accused Tlaib of racism.
“There’s nothing more personal to me than my relationship ― my nieces and nephews are people of color, not many people know that ― you know that, Mr. Chairman,” Meadows said to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chair of the House oversight committee. “And to indicate that I asked someone who is a personal friend of the Trump family, who has worked for him, who knows this particular individual, that she’s coming in to be a prop? It’s racist to suggest I asked her to come in here for that reason.”
Tlaib apologized for giving Meadows the impression she was directly calling him a racist, and he accepted the apology.
But the fact is that Meadows chose to single out Patton in his effort to show Trump is not racist. Meadows did use Patton as a prop. And her appearance did not prove the president isn’t a racist.