Trump Tells Freshman Congresswomen to ‘Go Back’ to the Countries They Came From

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday weighed in on the friction between a group of four freshman Democratic congresswomen and Speaker Nancy Pelosi: He suggested that the congresswomen — none of whom are white — should “go back and help fix” the countries they came from. His message was immediately seized upon by Democrats, who called it a racist trope.

“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,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

He added: “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.”

Broadly, Mr. Trump’s attack was meant for members of the so-called squad, a group engaged in an existential and generational war of words with Ms. Pelosi: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts.

“These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Only one of the women, Ms. Omar, who is from Somalia, was born outside the United States. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Ms. Pressley, who is black, was born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. And Ms. Tlaib was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrants.

Mr. Trump’s attack came after days of Fox News coverage that centered on Ms. Omar. During her tenure in Congress, Ms. Omar has rattled fellow Democrats and provided ammunition to Republicans for her repeated criticisms of Israel, including a comment that pro-Israel activists were pushing “for allegiance to a foreign country.”

And she has been vocal about her life as a refugee who fled her native country and eventually settled in America, only to be disappointed with the country she found. More than any of the others in her freshman group, Ms. Omar — one of the first two Muslim women in Congress along with Ms. Tlaib — has forcefully used her personal story to make the argument that loving America does not require an acceptance of its shortcomings.

“I grew up in an extremely unjust society, and the only thing that made my family excited about coming to the United States was that the United States was supposed to be the country that guaranteed justice to all,” Ms. Omar recently said. “So, I feel it necessary for me to speak about that promise that’s not kept.”

Comments like these have inflamed Fox News personalities like Tucker Carlson, who used his television program to lash out at Ms. Omar.

“Our country rescued Ilhan Omar,” Mr. Carlson said in a broadcast last week. “We didn’t do it to get rich; in fact it cost us money. We did it because we are kind people. How did Omar respond to the remarkable gift we gave her? She scolded us, and called us names, she showered us with contempt.”

Privately, some Democrats predicted the tweets could have a silver lining, giving both sides of the Democrats’ intraparty dispute something to unify around after days of taking shots at one another. Publicly, they chided Mr. Trump for what they called a racially motivated message.

Ms. Pelosi quickly condemned Mr. Trump’s remarks as “xenophobic” in a pair of tweets of her own, turning them around to criticize Mr. Trump’s immigration policies and project Democratic unity. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,” she wrote of Democrats.

“Rather than attack Members of Congress, he should work with us for humane immigration policy that reflects American values,” she wrote in another tweet. “Stop the raids,” she said of the arrests targeting thousands of members of undocumented families that were to begin this weekend.

Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the No. 4 House Democrat, said Mr. Trump would do better to spend his time on the humanitarian crisis at the southern border and to address other pressing national concerns like prescription drug costs than attacking members of Congress.

“That is a racist tweet,” Mr. Luján said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Telling people to go back where they came from — these are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives. I think that’s wrong.”

Representative Brendan F. Boyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania, made the point that he is from an immigrant family, but had never come under racially charged criticism from the president. He is white.

“Like some of my Democratic colleagues, I’m young, from an immigrant family, also very critical of Trump,” Mr. Boyle wrote on Twitter. “Funny thing though, he never tells me to ‘go back where I come from.’ Hmm I wonder why?”

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