WASHINGTON President Donald Trump has made racist remarks against a group of Democratic congresswomen, telling them on Twitter to go back where they came from despite being citizens of the United States.
While Trump did not name the women, his tweets on Sunday were almost certainly referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” said Trump on Twitter.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
The Republican president’s tweets drew sharp rebukes from the Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to “make America white again”.
Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, a Trump critic who recently took steps to leave his party, called the remarks “racist and disgusting”.
Outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday said Trump’s tweets were “completely unacceptable”.
“Her view is that the language which was used to refer to the women was completely unacceptable,” May’s spokesman told reporters.
Ocasio-Cortez swiftly denounced his remarks. “Mr. President, the country I ‘come from’, & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” she said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County.
Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati. Tlaib was born in Detroit.
Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country.
She immigrated to the US aged 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.
Tlaib responded to Trump’s attack in a video published on Twitter.
“This is our country. No amount of hate filled bullying from the White House is going to change that. We’re going to fight back together and we’re going to become stronger for it. Please know that I won’t back down, no kind of attack to silence me is going to work,” Tlaib said.
‘A nation of immigrants’
The attacks may have been meant to further the divides within the Democrat caucus, strained over internal debates on liberal policies and on whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Instead, Democrats, as one voice, denounced the comments.
“Unfortunately there is an American tradition of telling people to go back where they came from,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democratic presidential contender, said on CNN.
”It’s a very bad tradition that we need to weed out of our nation because we are a nation of immigrants, that is who we are by our nature for hundreds of years. But you don’t expect to hear it from the president.”
It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views.
His political career was launched on the backs of falsely claiming that his predecessor, Barack Obama, was not born in the US. In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, he deemed many Mexican immigrants “rapists”.
And last year, during a White House meeting on immigration, he wondered why the US was admitting so many immigrants from “s***hole countries” such as Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations.
Arsalan Iftikhar, human rights lawyer and senior fellow at Georgetown University, told Al Jazeera: “This is the president who called for the total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US, once referred to Mexicans as rapists, started the Obama birth controversy.
“When you see this sort of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, Islamophobia coming from the commander-in-chief, its really important for minorities communities in the US to act as intersectional allies to one another to ensure he is a one-term president.”