White House adviser Stephen Miller on Sunday pushed back against those who believe President Donald Trump is a racist or is engaging in racist rhetoric, arguing the liberals use that label to censor their opponents.
"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace listed several of Trump's statements that have been decried as racist, including his recent suggestion that four congresswomen of color "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came," his unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen, his campaign announcement in which he said Mexicans "are rapists," his call for a "complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States," and his assertion that there were good people on "both sides" of a clash between white nationalists and counterprotesters at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"Why shouldn't someone see all of that as racist?" Wallace asked Miller.
"I think the term 'racist,' Chris, has become a label that is too often deployed by the left, Democrats in this country simply to try to silence and punish and suppress people they disagree with, speech that they don't want to hear," Miller said.
"The reality is that this president has been a president for all Americans, whether you look at historically low black unemployment rates, historically low Hispanic unemployment rates or if you look at what he's doing on immigration to protect safety, security, rising wages for all American citizens."
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Wallace said the comments from Trump he cited were not about "protecting the American people" but rather "playing the race card."
Miller said Trump "was clear that he disagreed with" the "send her back" refrain that his supporters chanted when the president criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. – a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia – at his rally Wednesday in North Carolina.
Wallace pointed out that Trump let the refrain continue for 13 seconds and said nothing "that indicated any concern about the chant."
"I’ve never called any of his tweets racist, but there's no question that he is stoking racial divisions," Wallace said.
Trump's tweets telling Omar, along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., to "go back" to their countries of origin and the "send her back" chant have brought long-simmering accusations that the president is a racist back to a boil.
When asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week" if he thought the president is a racist, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said, "I believe he is. Yes, no doubt about it."
Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he "tried to give him the benefit of the doubt" but "when I think about what he said to these young ladies who are merely trying to bring excellence to government" it takes him back the scars he earned fighting for integration when he was young.
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"When the president does these things, it brings up the same feelings that I had over 50 some years ago and it’s very, very painful," Cummings said.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is one of 25 Democrats running to unseat Trump in 2020, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Trump is "worse than a racist."
"He is actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gains, trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself," Booker said Sunday, comparing Trump to Alabama's former segregationist Gov. George Wallace.
"Tragically, the president has decided that racism is good politics," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"I have worked with President Trump for two years and he is not a racist," Mercedes Schlapp, a senior adviser to Trump's 2020 campaign told ABC News on Sunday. "He's a compassionate man whose policies have focused on the minority community."
Like Miller, Schlapp cited the low unemployment rate among blacks and Hispanics to dispute the idea that the president is a racist.
Miller said the "core issue" was that Trump's supporters at the North Carolina rally "and millions of patriotic Americans all across this country are tired of being beat up, condescended to, looked down upon, talked down to by members of Congress on the left in Washington, D.C., and their allies in many corners of the media."
As examples, Miller pointed to an incident where Omar was accused of being dismissive of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as comments she made about al-Qaeda, which fact-checkers have said her taken out of context. He also cited Ocasio-Cortez's reference to immigration detention facilities as concentration camps.
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Some experts have suggested Trump's attacks on the four liberal congresswomen, often referred to as "the Squad," are part of a political strategy intended to make them and their policies, which are perceived as left of the American mainstream, the face of the Democratic Party. Trump has painted them as women who "hate our country" and chastised them for criticizing the USA.
"I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country," Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2019
"But, during his 2016 campaign, and even as president, Mr. Trump has been as critical of this country as anything 'the Squad' has ever said," Wallace told Miller.
As examples, he cited quotes in which Trump said "nobody respects us" and we "don't know what we're doing." He also pointed to an interview in which Trump defended Russian President Vladimir Putin's alleged assassinations of his critics, saying, "We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?"
Miller said the difference was Trump wanted to "strengthen America's core values" and the "principles of Western Civilization" while the four congresswomen were part of "an ideology that runs down America."
Cummings disputed the characterizations of Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib put forth by Trump, Miller and other Republicans.
"They’re on my committee, so I interact with them every day," he said on "This Week."
"These are folks and women who love their country and they work very hard and they want to move us towards that more perfect union that our founding fathers talked about," Cummings said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chris Wallace to Stephen Miller: Trump is 'stoking racial divisions'