But for many media outlets and politicians, it somehow wasn’t.
In the day since President Donald Trump issued a series of racist tweets claiming that four Democratic women of color in Congress should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” the president’s history of racism has been back in the media spotlight.
“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,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
His attacks on the congresswomen extended into Monday, with the president claiming that the women owe the country an apology for their “horrible & disgusting actions.” At a press conference later in the day, Trump argued that he wasn’t concerned about backlash to his remarks or his use of a long-used racist trope. “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” he said. “And all I’m saying — they want to leave, they can leave. Now, it doesn’t say, ‘Leave forever.’ It says, ‘Leave if you want.’”
The targets of Trump’s ire have mostly gone unnamed, but the remarks seem to be clearly addressing Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Each is a progressive woman of color serving her first term, and all have attracted considerable attention for their outspoken critiques of DC politics in general and the president in particular. In recent days, some of the women — at times referred to as “the squad” by reporters — have been locked in a fight with Democratic leadership over a recent border bill and the direction of the Democratic Party.
But Trump’s comments have shifted attention away from that fight and to the president’s longstanding history of racism and his frequent attacks on high-profile people of color, which has drawn criticism from both Democratic Party officials and political leaders in other countries. His remarks fit into a broader pattern of attacks on his critics of color, with the president regularly questioning these individual’s patriotism in an effort to undercut their arguments.
Ultimately, Trump, both in his worldview and approach to the presidency, sees his ability to inflame cultural and racial tensions as a political strength.
The media’s mixed reaction to these remarks have raised questions as well, with some outlets hesitating to call the president’s comments or actions racist. But even if some in the media are unwilling to state this clearly, the president has long positioned American identity as something naturally inherited by whites and only conditionally granted to other races, wielding patriotism and citizenship as a cudgel to be used against people of color. His comments about the Democratic congresswomen show that he will only continue to rely on this argument.
Clay Jones, Jan.16, 2018