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Cheney says Trump's attack on congresswomen "isn't about race"

CBS News logo CBS News 7/21/2019 Camilo Montoya-Galvez
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Rep. Liz Cheney, the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, pushed back on the notion that President Trump's recent attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color are racist and sexist, arguing the commander-in-chief's criticism of the progressive quartet is solely rooted in disagreements over policy.

"I think the news media really wants to make this about race," Cheney, the House GOP conference chair, said during a combative interview on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "This isn't about race. It's not about gender. It's not about religion."

Transcript: Rep. Liz Cheney on "Face the Nation"

Cheney suggested race is not a factor in the recent high-profile feud between Mr. Trump and Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Despite only one of them being foreign-born, the president said the four lawmakers should "go back" to the "totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." 

The Wyoming Republican, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said the president's criticism of Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley is based strictly on his strong opposition to their rhetoric and signature progressive policy proposals — which Cheney believes are "dangerous" to the U.S.  

"When you have members of Congress who are as anti-Semitic as Ilhan Omar has been, when you have members of Congress who are advocating the, you know, complete elimination of the use of all fossil fuels, all air travel, the elimination of private insurance, the imposition of socialism on this country, we're not going to stand for that," she said. "We're not going to stand for policies that take freedom away from the American people. That's what this fight is about."

Pressed on the fact that the president has not merely criticized policies he opposes, but also singled out the four women of color, accused of them of not being "capable" of loving the U.S. and suggested they "go back" to other countries, Cheney again faulted the news media for portraying Mr. Trump's racist attacks against the congresswomen as racist. 

"Our concern and our opposition to what these women are saying — and many other members of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives — has to do with the fact that they are advocating policies that will destroy this nation and we will fight against it," she added. "And I think the news media, you included, ought to cover the substance and I think it is outrageous for you to say the president doesn't talk about substance."

Cheney also noted that Mr. Trump has tried to distance himself from the racist chants some of his supporters made during a recent rally in North Carolina. Although Mr. Trump has said he was "not happy" with the chants, he falsely claimed he tried to stop them by interrupting the crowd of supporters — whom he called "patriotic" people. 

On Sunday, Cheney called the chants "absolutely wrong" and said "it should not have happened."

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