Most Democratic House members from Pennsylvania were quick to publicly condemn President Donald Trump’s statements that four progressive Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Meanwhile, Republicans offered a variety of reactions. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said the president was “wrong” without saying the tweets were racist.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, a Republican from Lancaster County, didn’t mention Trump by name but said that while he disagrees with House Democrats on policy, “racially-motivated statements or behavior is totally unacceptable and unbecoming of our great nation.”
Some Republicans stayed quiet, while several appeared to stand with the president, instead criticizing Democrats.
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......
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
....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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
Trump’s Sunday morning tweets, directed at four women of color serving in the U.S. House, were widely decried as racist.
Three of the Democratic lawmakers were born in the United States; the fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, was born in Somalia and became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.
On Monday, as the president defended his remarks during an event outside the White House and as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced plans to draft a resolution to condemn the president’s language, reporters with PA Post and WITF reached out to all 18 members of the state’s congressional delegation, plus its two U.S. senators, about Trump’s comments.
Here’s what they said — or didn’t.
Bucks County Republican congressman Brian Fitzpatrick declined to say whether he thought the statements were racist and inappropriate. His office provided this statement:
“As the Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Congressman Fitzpatrick has repeatedly stressed the critical need for civility in our discourse, from the kitchen table to the White House and everywhere in between. Pointing out differences in policy proposals is ok. Personal attacks on others are not ok.”
Democratic congressman Brendan Boyle of Philadelphia said he was “repulsed” by Trump’s comments.
“I think this tweet was quite clearly racist,” Boyle said in a phone interview. “There is nothing else you can call it. And I think that it is part of a conscious strategy on the part of the president to divide this country to the point where he can eke out 51 percent.”
Boyle, the son of an Irish immigrant, said he hadn’t talked to Republican congress members about what Trump said. He said some Republicans have shied away from criticizing the president after seeing lawmakers such as former U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina lose during 2018 Republican primaries after speaking out against him.
“And I think that he will unfortunately probably continue saying these kind of things because in his view, it riles up his base, and it’s good for him,” Boyle said. “And in many ways that is about as depressing as the tweet itself.”
Philadelphia Democrat Dwight Evans said Trump’s message was inappropriate, racist and xenophobic.
“Trump has been broadcasting his racism since he started pushing the birther smear about President Obama eight years ago,” Evans said in an email from his spokesman. “This latest example is distracting from the immediate threat Trump poses to the health care of millions of Americans by his urging the courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act and the protections it provides.”
His Twitter account also was busy, retweeting more than two dozen messages condemning Trump’s remarks.
Montgomery County Democrat Madeleine Dean took to Twitter to denounce Trump’s words.
While it may no longer surprise us, this ignorant, racist attack on my colleagues should still shock us to our core. This man is unfit to lead. https://t.co/ec1663L1aU
— Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (@RepDean) July 14, 2019
Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, a Delaware County Democrat who was elected last year, criticized the president Sunday afternoon.
“How many more examples do we need? This president does not share our fundamental American values,” she said on Facebook. “Add this latest racist tweet aimed toward my colleagues to the list of reasons why I support an impeachment inquiry.”
U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6, critiqued the president’s statements as offensive, xenophobic and divisive:
I’m troubled by these offensive & xenophobic tweets. These duly elected congresswomen represent their communities & the diversity of our nation’s politics. At this point in our nation’s history, we must bring people together rather than divide them. Our diversity is our strength. https://t.co/w67rn5Pt0g
— Chrissy Houlahan (@RepHoulahan) July 14, 2019
Democrat Susan Wild, who represents the Lehigh Valley-area seventh district, also took to Twitter to condemn the comments:
It is deeply troubling to see this kind of race-baiting targeted at these hard working Congresswomen. It’s divisive, distracting, and wrong. We should all hold ourselves to a much higher standard. https://t.co/MT5oSP6hh8
— Rep. Susan Wild (@RepSusanWild) July 14, 2019
Congressman Matt Cartwright, a Democrat in northeastern Pennsylvania, didn’t post anything about Trump’s comments on his Twitter or Facebook accounts Sunday or early Monday.
In response to questions for this story, spokesperson Melvin Felix said, “Congressman Cartwright denounces the president’s racist tweets and found them entirely inappropriate.”
Freshman Congressman Dan Meuser, a Republican representing Pa.’s 9th district including Hershey and a sizeable chunk of Pa.’s coal region, didn’t post to Twitter or Facebook regarding the president’s comments. His office did not respond to requests for comment.
Congressman Scott Perry, a York County Republican, didn’t post anything on Twitter or Facebook about the president’s statements Sunday. A spokesperson didn’t directly respond to questions for this story.
Instead, she pointed to a Monday afternoon Facebook post from Perry — a post that didn’t mention Trump and instead criticized socialist leaders.
“I’m disappointed to find that many in the media are just awakening to the anti-American and anti-Semitic comments uttered consistently by some socialist leaders,” Perry said. “I invite everyone to join me as we continue strengthening our Country and communities. #GodBlessAmerica.”
Republican Lloyd Smucker, who represents the 11th district comprised mainly of Lancaster County and part of York County, didn’t respond directly to our phone or email inquiries. But his social media accounts were updated Monday afternoon:
Congressman Fred Keller, a central Pennsylvania Republican, didn’t post about the tweets on social media Sunday.
In a statement Monday, Keller appeared to stand with the president.
“No country on the face of the Earth has provided more opportunity and freedom than the United States. Every member of Congress takes an oath to defend and protect the Constitution, but every day members of the House Democrats fail to live up to that basic responsibility,” Keller said. “Rather than promote anti-Semitic and socialist policies that are contrary to American values, Democrats in Congress should instead focus on their core responsibilities to their constituents and put American citizens first.”
Congressman John Joyce, a Republican from Blair County, didn’t post anything on his Facebook or Twitter regarding the president’s tweets Sunday.
In a statement, spokesperson Andrew Romeo appeared to provide a difference between Joyce and the president, saying that, “Rather than focus on where his colleagues are from, Congressman Joyce forms his opinions of his fellow House members based solely on the policies that they advocate for.”
Still, Romeo criticized the same Democratic lawmakers that Trump did.
“Congressman Joyce believes that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of ‘the squad’ all support socialist, open borders, and anti-Semitic policies that are wrong for the country, and as exhibited by Axios’ reporting from the weekend, many Americans agree with that assessment,” Romeo said.
Republican Congressman Guy Reschenthaler, a former state Senator who won a special election in the conservative 14th district last year, did not address the president’s tweets on social media, and did not respond to a request for comment.
Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, a Republican representing central and northwestern Pennsylvania, did not post any response to the president’s tweets on social media. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Republican Congressman Mike Kelly, who represents a district in western Pennsylvania that stretches from Lake Erie to the northern Pittsburgh suburbs, didn’t post any comments about the president’s tweets on social media. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Western Pa. Democrat Conor Lamb released a statement via email Monday afternoon:
“What the President said was shameful. He’s supposed to be the leader of all Americans, but those comments go directly against our most fundamental ideal — that out of many we can be one. I don’t think he would make the same comment to all of the immigrants and people of color serving in uniform today.
“Making our government work well again has to start at the top. These comments have no place in our national debate over any issue. The President should lead by example, and he can start by apologizing.”
Congressman Mike Doyle, a Democrat representing the Pittsburgh area, tweeted in defense of his colleagues Sunday evening. His office did not respond to a request for further comment.
.@realdonaldtrump’s attack on four of my Democratic Colleagues was racist and un-American. They are American citizens and elected to Congress by their fellow Americans, and they are doing their duty to address corruption and ineptitude in the Trump Administration.
— Mike Doyle (@USRepMikeDoyle) July 15, 2019
GOP Sen. Pat Toomey became one of the few Republicans to directly address the tweets Monday. He released a statement that, while it didn’t say the president was being racist, condemned the remarks.
“President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from,” Toomey wrote. “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.”
Reached for comment, a spokesman for Toomey reiterated that the senator believes Trump was “wrong,” but did not respond when asked if he believed the president’s sentiments were racist or xenophobic.
Bob Casey, Pennsylvania’s senior Democratic senator, was explicit in his public denunciation. In a tweet Sunday evening he said the president was engaging in xenophobia.
“Go back to your own country” is an ugly and deeply xenophobic sentiment rooted in the darkest periods of our history. The fact that it’s coming from our President is beyond the pale. Once again, his words make us less safe.
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) July 14, 2019
Casey’s spokespeople declined to comment further, and did not say whether the senator believed the president’s remarks were racist.
Spokespeople for newly-elected state Republican chair Lawrence Tabas did not return a request for comment.
Find this report and others at the site of our partner, WITF.