Rep. Elijah Cummings on Sunday said the events of the week since President Donald Trump’s “go back” tweet aimed at four progressive congresswomen of color reminded him of being a 12-year-old growing up in 1962 in Baltimore.
“We were trying to integrate an Olympic-size pool near my house, and we had been constrained to a wading pool in the black community,” the Maryland Democrat told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week.” “As we tried to March to that pool over six days, I was beaten, all kinds of rocks and bottles thrown at me. And the interesting thing is that I heard the same chants. ‘Go home. You don’t belong here.’ And they called us the N-word over and over again.”
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Cummings’ anecdote came days after a Trump rally in North Carolina, during which some of the crowd chanted “send her back,” referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), an American citizen who was born in Somalia. Trump on Friday said that the crowd was filled with “incredible patriots.”
“What it does, when Trump does these things, it brings up the same feelings that I had over 50 some years ago, and it’s very, very painful,” the House Oversight Committee chairman said. “It’s extremely divisive and I don’t think this is becoming of the president of the United States of America.”
Cummings said that while he has been trying to give the president the benefit of the doubt, he believes Trump is a racist — “No doubt about it.”
He also said he took issue with Trump’s tweet Sunday morning, which was along the same lines of the rhetoric the president has been doubling down on since last Sunday.
“I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country,” Trump tweeted. “They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!”
Cummings rebuked Trump’s tweet and called the four progressive congresswomen — Omar, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — “some of the most brilliant young people” he’s met.
“When you disagree with the president, suddenly you’re a bad person,” Cummings said. “Our allegiance is not to the president; our allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America and the American people.”
Mercedes Schlapp, a former White House director of strategic communications who left her post earlier this month to join Trump’s 2020 campaign, denounced Cummings‘ comments by saying the president disavowed the “send her back” chant.
“The president made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the chant. And he disagreed with it,” Schlapp told Stephanopoulos.
When pressed for a specific instance in which Trump disagreed with the chant, Schlapp said he did not address it in the moment at his rally: “There’s a lot of emotion. There’s a lot going on. He continued with his speech.”
Before taking aim at “the squad,” as the four congresswomen are known, Schlapp said Trump has “made it very clear that he disagreed with the chant” at a news conference the next day.