President Donald Trump kicked off his weekend with a series of racist tweets in which he called a black Democrat’s district a “rodent infested mess” and a “very dangerous & filthy place.”
The target of Trump’s ire early Saturday was Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), whose majority black district has been held by Democrats since 1953.
During a press conference on Wednesday following a daylong appearance on Capitol Hill by former special prosecutor Robert Mueller, Cummings urged Americans to take seriously the allegations of corrupt dealing and executive overreach that have swirled around the president since his first days in office.
“I’m begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on,” Cummings said. “Because if you want to have a democracy intact for your children, and your children’s children, and generations yet unborn we’ve got to guard this moment… this is our watch.”
Democrats have been sharply divided over whether to commence impeachment proceedings against Trump, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that there isn’t enough support in the country yet for such a move.
The tweet by the president continues a long string of personal attacks against his political opponents in which he resorts to offensive and even racist rhetoric.
Numerous organizations and lawmakers, including Republicans, have recently criticized Trump’s targeted attacks against black officials, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — at a recent rally, the president did not stop his supporters from chanting “send her back.”
Continuing that trend, the president responded to Cummings’ criticism two days later, saying the lawmaker “has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous.”
“As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded,” Trump continued.
That claim runs counter to recent reports revealing that migrant children have been detained in U.S. custody for weeks without sufficient food, water, or sanitation. And a report released earlier this month by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General showed incredibly overcrowded conditions.
The president’s tweets came one hour after the conservative show Fox & Friends aired a very similar segment on Cummings’ Baltimore district. Matthew Gertz, a senior fellow at the left-leaning watchdog organization Media Matters for America, argued on Twitter that the president’s tweets echo Fox almost word for word.
Trump’s attack on Rep. Cummings is a straight recitation of a Fox segment. “Living conditions at the border are better than most areas in his district, the city lined with abandoned building and trash on the streets.”
Left, Fox & Friends, 6:18 a.m.Right, Trump, 7:14 a.m. pic.twitter.com/w5OniqHgW6
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) July 27, 2019
This isn’t the first time the president has used the word “infested” to criticize a black lawmaker. In 2017, shortly after his inauguration, Trump tweeted that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights-era icon, should “spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”
And it is not the first time he has spoken degradingly about people of color — notably last year the president called African countries “shitholes” during a bipartisan meeting with lawmakers.
Trump’s Saturday morning Twitter rant comes on the heels of a slew of widely-criticized racist comments earlier this month against a group of four female Democratic lawmakers, including Omar.
Over the past two weeks the president has repeatedly attacked Omar, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), tweeting that they should “go back” to their home countries, a common racist trope. (Omar came to the United States as a child from Somalia; the other three were born in the United States.)
Trump has defended his comments by saying he objects to the women because of how they have spoken about America. Among the many misleading claims made by the president, for instance, is that he said Omar “looks down with contempt on the hardworking Americans.”
The president’s tweets about Cummings notably come on the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Race Riot in the summer of 1919, which sparked some of the deadliest riots the country has seen between white and black Americans.
This post has been updated to correct to Wednesday the day of Cummings’ remarks and the context in which they were delivered.