Leaders of the Washington National Cathedral have joined the voices denouncing President Donald Trump for attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and labeling his majority-black district a “rodent infested mess.”
The Episcopal cathedral released a statement on Tuesday from Revs. Mariann Edgar Budde, Randolph Marshall Hollerith and Kelly Brown Douglas calling Trump’s comments “dangerous” and “more than a ‘dog-whistle.’”
“When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human ‘infestation’ in America,” the statement reads. “They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.”
Trump has consistently attacked Cummings, a black lawmaker whose district includes parts of Baltimore. Cummings chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee and has been a vocal Trump critic, recently denouncing the administration’s treatment of migrants at in border detention centers.
Trump’s comments have provoked backlash from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who called the remarks racist, and the Baltimore Sun’s editorial board, which published a scathing op-ed saying it was “better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood” than to be one.
The National Cathedral’s leaders compared Trump to Joseph McCarthy, the Republican senator from Wisconsin who stoked anti-communist fears in the 1950s to stay in the political spotlight. In 1954, then-U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch asked McCarthy on live television, “Have you no sense of decency?”
“In retrospect, it’s clear that Welch’s question was directed less toward McCarthy and more to the nation as a whole,” the cathedral said. “Had Americans had enough? Where was our sense of decency?”
The faith leaders encouraged people to find their “sense of decency” and not stay silent in the face of Trump’s racism.
“As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over,” their statement read, adding, “To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words.”
The cathedral has been outspoken about the administration’s controversial policies before, denouncing the transgender military ban, the decision to weaken the Johnson Amendment, and family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. But the statement on Tuesday appears to be the first time the cathedral has called the president’s words bigoted and racist.