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What Republicans are saying about Trump's racist tweets

CBS News logo CBS News 7/15/2019 Emily Tillett
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While Democrats were lining up to admonish President Trump for his racist tweets targeting a group of left-wing congresswomen over the weekend, Republican criticisms so far have been few and far between.

The president tweeted Sunday, "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."

"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how ... it is done," the president wrote

Here are some of the Republicans who have weighed in on his comments.

Marc Short

Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff defended Mr. Trump's tweets, arguing to reporters Monday that they were "not racist" because Mr. Trump has an "Asian woman of color in his cabinet," Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Chao is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Taiwan.  

Short also said that the tweets were specifically about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who was born in Somalia, and not other women of color in Congress. 

"This is not a universal statement that he's making. He's making it about a very specific - pretty much the individual member of Congress that I think has said most things that she's most unhappy about in the United States of America," Short later defended. 

"I don't think the president's intent in any way is racist - I think he's trying to point out the fact that since elected it's hard to find anything Ilhan Omar has said that's actually supportive of the United States of America," Short added. 

Pat Toomey

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican, criticized Mr. Trump for his comments. 

"President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from," Toomey said. "Three of the four were born in America and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine. I couldn't disagree more with these congresswomen's views on immigration, socialism, national security, and virtually every policy issue. But they are entitled to their opinions, however misguided they may be. We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry."

Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" Monday where he also defended the president without explicitly calling out his tweets. He did, however, implore the president to "aim higher" and note that the Democrats he criticized were "American citizens who are duly elected." 

"They are American citizens, they won an election, take on their policies," Graham said. But Graham also described Omar and her allies as "anti-America" politicians who "hate our own country."

"We all know that [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists, they're anti-Semitic...we don't need to know anything about them personally, just talk about their policies," Graham said.

Tim Scott

South Carolina's Tim Scott, the lone African-American in the Republican caucus, knocked the Democratic party for being embroiled in racial controversy as well as members who have used "hateful language" toward police and Jews, but stopped short of defending the president in a statement. 

"The President interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language," Scott said of the president's lack of productive criticism over the weekend. "No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further."

Susan Collins

Maine Republican Susan Collins largely came down against views of some of the "far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus" in a statement on Monday -- pointing to past questionable statements about socialism and Israel --  but concluded that the president's comments were "way over the line."

"He should take that down," Collins added. 

Lisa Murkowski

The Alaska Republican lambasted the president's comments as "spiteful" and "absolutely unacceptable" in a tweet Monday afternoon. 

"We have enough challenges addressing the humanitarian crises both at our borders and around the world. Instead of digging deeper into the mud with personal, vindictive insults –we must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency," she added. 

Chip Roy 

One of the few sitting Republican members of Congress to take issue with Mr. Trump's tweets was Chip Roy, a freshman conservative Republican who supports the president's strict immigration policies. 

"POTUS was wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any 'home' besides the U.S. But I just as strongly believe non-citizens who abuse our immigration laws should be sent home immediately, & Reps who refuse to defend America should be sent home," Roy, a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, tweeted from his personal account on Monday. 

Paul Mitchell 

Rep. Paul Mitchell also added his voice to the small caucus of GOP members denouncing the president's tweets. Mitchell said that while he supports the president, he told supporters that "we must be better than comments like these."

"I share the political frustrations with some members of the other party, but these comments are beneath leaders," Mitchell tweeted

Fred Upton

Rep. Fred Upton told "Michigan's Big Show" Monday morning that the president's comments were "really uncalled for" and "very disappointing." Upton also spoke to his party's relative silence on the issue. 

"I would imagine, I would know, that a good number of my Republican colleagues don't appreciate the comments as well. And actually if you look at the facts and it's really, you know his statement, I was just saying on it, you know, three of the four were born in this country, so it makes no sense and it's just – we got so many other issues we ought to be working on together."

John Kasich

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich came out with perhaps the harshest comments against the president, calling his tweets "deplorable and beneath the dignity of the office."

"We all, including Republicans, need to speak out against these kinds of comments that do nothing more than divide us and create deep animosity - maybe even hatred," Kasich, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, said. "At the base of America is a Jewish and Christian tradition that says that we must realize that we are all brothers and sisters. Rhetoric like the President's works against that foundation of our country and all that we teach our children."

Mike Turner

Fellow Ohioan Mike turner went so far as to explicitly call his comments racist and demanded the president apologize for his remarks. 

"We must work as a country to rise above hate, not enable it," Turner tweeted

Andy Harris

Speaking to WBAL's Bryan Nehman, Rep. Andy Harris took to the president's defense, saying his remarks were "clearly not a racist comment."

"They're obviously not racist. When anyone disagrees with anyone now the default is to call them a racist and this is no exception," said Harris. 

Harris tried to explain that the president likely had meant to send the Democrats back to their constituency. "He could have meant go back to the district they came from--to the neighborhood they came from," Harris said. 

This is a developing story. 

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