Donald Trump has hit back after being called racist for saying some Democratic congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
While the US president did not name the targets of his tweets, it came after he launched an extraordinary attack on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar – both women of colour – saying he “doesn’t even know where they came from”.
After posting the tweets on Sunday morning, Mr Trump later said it was “so sad” to see Democrats supporting the congresswomen and branding their opponents “racist”.
"So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion,” he tweeted.
"Whenever confronted, they call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, 'RACIST'.
"Their disgusting language and the many terrible things they say about the United States must not be allowed to go unchallenged.
"If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behaviour, then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!"
It is believed Mr Trump’s original tweets were aimed at a group of four progressive Democratic women of colour known as “the squad”.
Of the four congresswomen, three – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley – were born and raised in the US. The fourth, Ilhan Omar, was born in Somalia and moved to the country as a child.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez was born approximately 12 miles away from the hospital where Mr Trump himself was born in New York.
Mr Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning: "So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democratic Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world... 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.
"Then come back and show us how it is done."
In the hours after the tweets were posted, Ms Omar wrote: “You are stoking white nationalism bc you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."
Ms Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "You are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."
While Ms Tlaib tweeted: "Yo @realDonaldTrump, I am fighting corruption in OUR country. I do it every day when I hold your admin accountable as a U.S. Congresswoman….
“Keep talking, you'll be out of the WH soon. #TickTock”
Other Democrats also voiced their opposition to the US president’s tweets.
Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, who was personally mentioned in the tweets, condemned the US president’s “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation”.
She tweeted that Mr Trump was reaffirming that his plan to “Make America great again” had “always been about making America white again”.
She added: “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”
Last week, the speaker had told colleagues she was frustrated with people using social media to criticise other members of the party. The comments were interpreted as being directed at Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Ms Omar, and two other Democrat women, all of whom have large social media followings among progressives and have been outspoken.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren described Mr Trump’s tweets as a “racist and xenophobic attack”.
“This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realises it,” she added. “They should be treated with respect. As president, I'll make sure of it.”
Democratic candidate Kamala Harris also condemned the tweets, calling them “racist and un-American”.
“And it is an old trope, go back to where you came from, that you might hear on the street but you should never hear that from the President of the United States,” she tweeted.
While Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke wrote: "This is racist. These congresswomen are every bit as American as you – and represent our values better than you ever will”.
Republican congressman Justin Amash, a Trump critic who announced this month he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, also condemned Mr Trump’s tweets.
"To tell these American citizens (most of whom were born here) to 'go back' to the 'crime infested places from which they came' is racist and disgusting,” he said.
Despite the widespread outrage Mr Trump’s tweets have provoked online, many Republican politicians have refused to condemn his remarks.
But this is not the first time Trump had been accused of holding racist views.
He launched his political career with false claims that Barack Obama was not born in the US and said many Mexicans were “rapists".
Mr Trump also shared a tweet attacking Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, following three killings in the city.
“London needs a new mayor,” Mr Trump wrote. “Khan is a disaster – will only get worse!”
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