Donald Trump’s White House has defended the president in the wake of incendiary tweets he launched at a senior Democratic congressman of colour whose district he claimed was “rodent and rat infested”.
Mick Mulvaney, the president’s acting chief of staff, described the tweets as “hyperbolic” after they sparked backlash across the country and among top Democrats, who rebuked the “racist attacks”.
“I understand that everything Donald Trump says is offensive to some people,” Mr Mulvaney said in an interview with CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday.
He then noted how the president “said things that were critical” of four congresswomen of colour the same week Nancy Pelosi also criticised the group, adding that Mr Trump received negative press coverage over the issue, while the House speaker did not.
Mr Mulvaney did not mention, however, mention that Ms Pelosi was criticising the group over their votes on a border defence funding bill, and Mr Trump had told the politicians to “go back” to their countries in a series of tweets largely seen as racist.
“I understand why” his latest tweets attacking Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings and the majority-black city of Baltimore are being perceived as racist, Mr Mulvaney said on Sunday.
“But that doesn’t mean that it’s racist,” he said.
Mr Trump spent his Saturday morning sharing videos posted by Twitter users seemingly showing run-down portions of Mr Cumming’s district in Maryland, writing divisive and hate-filled messages towards the congressman on the social media platform throughout the day.
“There is nothing racist in stating plainly what most people already know, that Elijah Cummings has done a terrible job for the people of his district, and of Baltimore itself,” the president wrote on Sunday as backlash swelled over his latest tweets in just weeks that came across as racist and divisive to many Americans.
“Dems always play the race card when they are unable to win with facts,” he added. “Shame!”
Mr Mulvaney continued to defend the president in another interview with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, as the anchor grilled him over Mr Trump’s frequent use of the word “infested” to describe places with large black populations.
“There is a clear pattern here, Mick,” Mr Wallace said as he laid out specific examples in recent years of the president using the term “infested” to attack politicians of colour.
“You’re spending way too much time reading between the lines,” Mr Mulvaney said.
“I’m not reading between the lines,” Mr Wallace responded. “I’m reading the lines.”
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