Rep. Elijah Cummings says Trump's rhetoric reminds him of segregation

Rep. Elijah Cummings told ABC's "This Week" that Trump's rhetoric toward llhan Omar reminds him of segregation

Published July 21, 2019 12:00PM (EDT)

Elijah Cummings, (D-MD) (AP/Patrick Semansky)
Elijah Cummings, (D-MD) (AP/Patrick Semansky)

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that President Donald Trump's racist rhetoric toward Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., reminds him of his childhood experiences with segregation.

"We were trying to integrate a Olympic-size pool near my house and we had been constrained to a wading pool in the black community and we tried to integrate it and as we did march towards that pool over a course of six days, I was beaten and all kinds of rocks and bottles thrown at me," Cummings told ABC host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. He added, "And the interesting thing is that I heard the same kind of chant, go home, you don’t belong here. And they called us the N word over and over and over again. And George, I got to tell you that I’m not the only person of color who have – who has had those kind of experiences."

Cummings then drew a parallel between his childhood experiences and the present, saying that "when Trump does these things, when the president does these things, it brings up the same feelings that I had over 50 some years ago and it’s very, very painful. It’s extremely divisive and I just don’t think that this is becoming of the president of the United States of America, the leader of an entire world."

Cummings also objected to Trump's criticisms of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota as unpatriotic, pointing out that he works with the first three in his capacity as House Oversight Committee chairman and has interacted with Omar "a lot."

"These are folks and women who love their country and they work very hard and they want to move us towards that more perfect union that our founding fathers talked about," Cummings told Stephanopoulos. "And so when you disagree with the president, suddenly you’re a bad person. Our allegiance is not to the president. Our allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the American people and I’m going to tell you, these are some of the most brilliant young people that I have met and I am honored to serve with them."

This isn't the first time that Cummings has spoken out against the president's racist rhetoric toward the four congresswomen. On Thursday he told NBC News that "we in America cannot afford that. We are supposed to be the beacon of hope, the beacon of light, a place where people come when they’re trying to make their lives better. And I don’t know if the president fully understands how deeply painful those kind of statements are. I don’t think he understands how incredibly divisive they are. And I would say to the President of the United States of America: We don't want to be divided. We don't want to be. We want a nation that is united. And we need to be about the work that the people sent us here to do."

Trump incurred considerable controversy when he tweeted that the four congresswomen should "go back" to their supposed countries of origin (only one of them, Omar, was born outside the United States), and later when he doubled down by implicitly supporting attendees at one of his political rallies to chant "send her back" about Omar.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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