Over the weekend, President Trump suggested on Twitter that four U.S. Representatives of color — Alexandra Oscasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — should “go back” to the countries “from which they came.” The attacks against lawmakers has unified Democrats and even some Republicans in calling Trump’s remarks racist.
Most representatives and senators from the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party have since expressed support for Omar, a Somali-American serving the state’s 5th Congressional District. However, GOP politicians have remained silent or evaded a direct response to the DFL calling them to “denounce President Trump’s multiple, racist attacks” on Omar.
On Tuesday morning, 8th District Rep. Pete Stauber replied in an email to the Mesabi Daily News’s request for his stance on the matter: “Just last week, four freshman colleagues of mine publicly accused Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi of racism. “This week, these same members are accusing the president of racism. I did not run for Congress to get distracted by the name-calling happening on both sides of the aisle.”
Stauber, who appeared to provide the same statement to the Duluth News Tribune, went on to describe how he was “elected to Congress to find solutions to the pressing issues facing Minnesotans; including protecting Social Security and Medicare, deploying rural broadband, investing in our crumbling infrastructure and growing the economy for the middle class.” He noted that he was “already on the record voting for resolutions condemning divisive language” in regards to his support for an anti-Seminitism resolution in following Omar’s controversial tweets on political support for Israel being “all about the Benjamins baby.” He added: “I hope Washington, DC, and all Americans, can move forward to advance our exceptional nation.”
After learning of the statement, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin told the MDN in an email Tuesday afternoon that “it’s a shame Representative Stauber has given our president a free pass to spew hateful and racist attacks from the South Lawn of the White House.” Martin continued, “...Stauber has absolutely no excuse to remain silent in the face of such extreme bigotry. When push comes to shove, Stauber has shown he’d rather stand with his political party than stand up for what’s right.”
Martin had called on Stauber, in addition to GOP Representatives Tom Emmer and Jim Hagedorn and Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan to “immediately condemn the bigotry from the highest levels of their party and our government. Anything short of that is offering implicit support for Trump’s racist attacks.”
A spokesperson from the Minnesota DFL told the MDN that the party has yet to hear from any of those called upon.
As of press time, Stauber and the Republican Party of Minnesota did not respond to the MDN’s follow-up requests for comment in email and over the phone.
Also on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar reportedly spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where she called Trump’s tweets “reprehensible, racist,” according to The Star Tribune reporter, who was reporting live from the event on social media. Klobuchar is running for president in 2020 on the Democratic ticket.
In recent days, Klobuchar tweeted that “if acting happy is a prerequisite for staying in our country, this president would have been deported on day one of his administration” and “the only way we strive for a more perfect union is by (happily AND unhappily) advocating for change.” She also opined, “This is reprehensible, racist, and xenophobic. It is unacceptable for the President of the United States to tweet something like this. Period.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith tweeted that “Ilhan Omar is an American. She’s a member of Congress. Respect her.” She also retweeted Omar’s own responses in defense of herself.
Representative Angie Craig posted on Twitter that “questioning my colleagues’ identities as Americans is disrespectful and just plain wrong,” while Representative Dean Phillips wrote, “shameful words, Mr. President. The women to whom you refer are my colleagues. They are Americans, all but one born on our soil. And they are working tirelessly to address the ineptitude and corruption of your administration…” And Represenative Betty McCollum pulled no punches: “The president’s racist, bigoted, and misogynistic attacks on my colleagues are meant to distract from his admnistration’s corruption and incompetence.” Congressman Collin Peterson did not post a comment on his website and has not updated his Twitter account since November 2018.