Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday declined to single out President Donald Trump for incendiary rhetoric and racist tweets, largely blaming liberal Democrats for using heated language and urging everyone to cool down and observe a “better level of discourse.”
McConnell was in part responding to Trump’s demand that four Democratic congresswomen “go back” to where they came from. But he said singling out the president or anyone else was a “mistake” and that the problem was much broader than one person.
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“The president’s not a racist. And I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country. But it’s coming from all different ideological points of view. That’s the point,” McConnell said.
Asked how he would react to his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, being told to go back to where she came from, McConnell defended legal immigration as “good for America.”
Instead of focusing on Trump, McConnell singled out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for using “anti-Semitic tropes implying people only support Israel because of campaign contributions” and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) for calling border facilities “concentration camps” in specific examples of the low discourse. He did not specifically refer to any of Trump’s recent statements, which ranged from saying the four congresswomen should go back to where they came from, to saying they “hate our country” to calling them “pro-terrorist.”
“The president, to the speaker to freshman members of the house, all of us are responsible for our public discourse. Our words do matter,” McConnell said. “We all know politics is a contact sport but it’s about time we lowered the temperature all across the board. All of us, to a better level of discourse.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said McConnell’s remarks amounted to “silence.”
“I haven’t heard Leader McConnell say a thing about what Trump did. He should be doing that before he talks about other people. He has an obligation as Republican leader to address the awful and despicable comments of President Trump,” Schumer said.
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.