Mitch McConnell on Donald Trump's racist tweets: "The president is on to something"

The Republican leader tells Fox host Maria Bartiromo that “the squad” wants to “turn us into a socialist country”

By Matthew Rozsa
Published July 18, 2019 2:11PM (EDT)
Donald Trump; Mitch McConnell (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)
Donald Trump; Mitch McConnell (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed approval of President Donald Trump's heated rhetoric about Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., despite the fact that critics on both sides of the political aisle have slammed the remarks as racist.

"I think the president’s onto something," McConnell said during an interview with Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo. The Senate Majority Leader accused Omar and the other three members of the so-called “squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — of wanting to "turn us into a socialist country."

But McConnell did have one criticism of Trump. "He should have added, however, is that it's a lot broader than just the four of them,” the senator from Kentucky said about the president.

He then claimed that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic presidential candidates "have all signed up for things like the Green New Deal, which would take away your job; Medicare for All, which would take away your private health insurance. And in order to make any effort to pay for that Maria, they'd have to go after the top 10 percent of taxpayers in America, because that's where 70 percent of their revenue for the federal government comes from. So they'd slow the economy down."

He later added, "We're in a big debate now and next year about what we want America to be like. Do we really think socialism applies here at a time of great prosperity — 50-year-low unemployment? That's what the election, I think, is going to be about."

When asked about the accusation that Trump's recent comments on “the squad” were racist, McConnell said, "I think it's time to lower the rhetoric related to that subject all across America. Everyone knows that's nonsense."

He added, "You may not know this — your viewers may not know this, but I was there when Martin Luther King gave that 'I Have A Dream' speech. I was there — an observer when President [Lyndon] Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Look, I've got nothing to apologize on this front. We've got to tone the rhetoric down across the country — using and throwing around words like ‘racism.’ Kind of routinely applying it to almost everything. Let's about the issues."

On Sunday, Trump posted a series of racists tweets stating that it was "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. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"

On Wednesday, during a political rally in North Carolina, the pro-Trump audience began chanting "send her back" to Omar, with the president making no attempt to discourage them.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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