AUSTIN (KXAN) – “It was a mistake,” said Republican Senator John Cornyn, through a spokeswoman, about President Trump telling four Congresswomen of color to “go back” where they came from. Most other Texas Republicans haven’t said anything at all.
Sunday morning, the President called out four Congresswomen of color “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, all are American citizens. All but Rep. Omar was born in the United States; Omar was born in Somalia.
“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,” President of the United States Donald Trump said in a Sunday morning series of tweets.
KXAN reached out for a comment from Congressmen and Senators representing Central Texas.
Senator Ted Cruz did not respond. Congressmen Michael McCaul, R-Austin, Roger Williams, R- Round Rock, and John Carter, R-Round Rock, did not either on Monday or Tuesday.
The day after, Sen. Cornyn was one of four Texas leaders to weigh in publically. He told CNN, “I don’t think you are going to change somebody at this point in his life but hopefully he will, like all of us when we make a mistake, he’ll learn from it.”
Another who weighed in was Republican Congressman Chip Roy, who slowly has built a reputation on independence, publically bucking President Trump at times while supporting major aspects of his presidency, as in efforts to secure the border.
Roy, in a tweeted statement, said the President was “wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any ‘home’ besides the U.S. But I just as strongly believe non-citizens who abuse our immigration laws should be sent home immediately, & Reps who refuse to defend America should be sent home 11/2020,” which, of course, is the next election.
In the past, Roy filed a bill that would allow the Border Patrol stations to accept donations for children in detention facilities, helped lead an effort to force a vote on disaster aid, and visited an ICE facility where protestors replaced the American flag with a Mexican flag.
Texas Congressman Will Hurd is in the most competitive district in Texas, the 23rd congressional district, which Hurd won by less than a thousand votes. Rep. Hurd, R-Helotes, weighed in on Monday.
“Look, as I just said, the tweets are racist and xenophobic, they’re also inaccurate because the 4 women he’s referring to have grown up – they’re US citizens, 3/4 were born in the United States of America, its behavior that’s unbecoming of the president of the United States and the leader of the free world, we should talk about uniting people and not dividing us, and ultimately, politically its hurtful,” Rep. Hurd said.
Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, said, “The Tweet President Trump posted over the weekend about fellow Members of Congress are not reflective of the values of the 1,000,000+ people in Texas 22. We are proud to be the most diverse Congressional district in America. I urge our President immediately disavow his comments.”
All Texas leaders who commented are from competitive Texas races in 2020.
Longtime Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser tells KXAN the latest tweet from Trump puts many Republican elected officials between a “rock and a hard place.” President Trump is widely popular with their most dedicated “base” voters but could sway Texans of color or immigrants to vote elsewhere. Those are the same people local Republican leaders are trying to make inroads to.
“If we can talk about freedom and opportunities for all Texans including immigrants, then I think we’ll have success. But if we’re having to defend remarks and statements that are counterproductive and make people feel unwanted or unwelcome, then we’re just playing defense. We need to be on offense,” Steinhauser said. “The Republican Party is working very hard on its image and its brand and letting people know that we are a party of immigrants, we’re a nation of immigrants.”
Democratic candidates were quick to shine a spotlight on the silence of incumbent GOP Congressmen in the days after.
“I call on Rep. McCaul to stand up for the diverse people of our district and country in the face of the blatant racism, ignorance, and cowardice that President Trump’s tweets show,” said Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, candidate against McCaul in the 10th Congressional District.
“Instead of distracting from his many crimes, Trump’s racist attacks on duly elected Congresswomen only serve as a reminder for every American — that he and the Congressional Republicans like Roger Williams who have enabled this administration dishonor our Constitution, and that they are grossly unfit to serve our country in any capacity,” said Julie Oliver, candidate against Roger Williams in the Texas 25th Congressional District.
Tuesday night, the Texas House of Representatives took a vote on the issue, condemning the President’s statements. Rep. Hurd voted in favor. He was the only Texas Republican to do so.
Wednesday, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, told KXAN, “I do not associate myself with the vitriol I have heard from either side of the aisle and have been disappointed by the back-and-forth accusations of racism in recent weeks. Enough is enough. We were elected by the American people to do an important job, which requires us to work together. I want to see us return to civility and focus on getting things done, instead of constantly attacking one another on the House floor.”