At least two Republican congressmen from Michigan have called on President Donald Trump to apologize for suggesting that the late Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) was “looking up” from hell during a rally in their state.
“I’ve always looked up to John Dingell ― my good friend and a great Michigan legend,” Rep. Fred Upton tweeted after Trump’s rally on Wednesday. “There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”
Rep. Paul Mitchell echoed Upton’s denunciation of Trump’s remarks on Thursday morning and defended Dingell as a “well-respected man.”
“To use his name in such a dishonorable manner at last night’s rally is unacceptable from anyone, let alone the President of the United States,” Mitchell tweeted. “An apology is due, Mr. President.”
Rep. Bill Huizenga, a third Michigan Republican, tweeted on Wednesday that Trump’s remarks about Dingell were “unnecessary and inappropriate,” but stopped short of urging the president to apologize.
HuffPost reached out to Michigan’s three other Republican congressmen but did not immediately hear back from them.
Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a longtime Republican who left the party to become an independent earlier this year, tweeted Wednesday that he’s praying for Dingell’s family and called the late congressman “loved and respected.”
Following the House’s vote to impeach him Wednesday night, Trump ranted against Democrats during his rally in Battle Creek and baselessly accused them of interfering in U.S. elections.
The president then took aim at Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, whose husband, John Dingell, died in February at the age of 92. He had represented southeastern Michigan in the House for 59 years before retiring in 2015. His wife was elected to succeed him in November 2014.
“Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump told the crowd in the Dingells’ home state. He went on to say that she called him after her husband died and that he could have given the memorial arrangements for the long-serving congressman the “B” or “C” treatment but didn’t.
“I gave the A+ treatment,” Trump said. “[Debbie Dingell] calls me up: ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down. He’d be so thrilled.’”
“I said, ‘That’s OK, don’t worry about it.’ Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know,” the president joked, prompting a few audible groans as well as some cheers from the audience. “I don’t know, maybe.”
The comment drew swift backlash from Democrats, including Debbie Dingell, who tweeted on Wednesday that Trump had brought her down “in a way you can never imagine” as she prepares for her first holiday season without her husband.
During an appearance Thursday on CNN’s “New Day,” the congresswoman said that she didn’t call Trump about her husband’s memorial and that the president reached out to her.
“I’ve never taken a personal shot at this president,” she said, adding, “John Dingell loved this country. He believed in bringing everybody together. He believed in our democracy. And my family’s still hurting.”
She noted that John Dingell’s brother went into hospice care around Thanksgiving.
“We’re a family grieving,” she said, adding later that “some things should be off-limits.”
But White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Thursday defended Trump’s remarks, telling ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the president is a “counter-puncher.”
Asked if Trump plans to apologize to Debbie Dingell, Grisham said she hadn’t spoken to the president about it but is “very, very sorry” for Dingell’s loss.
“Why do you think the president said that overnight?” host George Stephanopoulos asked.
“You’d have to talk to the president about that,” Grisham said. “He was at a political rally. ... I think that, as we all know, the president is a counter-puncher. It was a very, very supportive and wild crowd, and he was just riffing on some of the things that had been happening the past few days.”
Watch Grisham’s full interview with “Good Morning America” below: