Trump Smeared a Member of Congress as an Al Qaeda Sympathizer on the White House Lawn

Jack Holmes
Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla - Getty Images

From Esquire

Only in 2019 does a "Made in America Product Showcase" turn into a forum for the President of the United States to double down on his racist attacks against sitting members of Congress. It seems foolish now to declare any one performance from this grotesque creature we've seen fit to make the president "a new low." There has been an endless parade of them, until you get the feeling that down here on America's sordid underbelly is where we live now.

The president wants four young congresswomen of color to go back to the countries from which they came, you see, even though three were born in the U.S. and all four are citizens of this country. More precisely, he wants them to sit down and shut up and just be thankful they're allowed to stay, even if they were duly elected to represent their constituents in the federal government and to make themselves heard on the policies of the United States. He has communicated this message by smearing them relentlessly—and having his allies do it, too—until it all culminated with a despicable attack on Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on the White House lawn Tuesday.

This is not the first time the president has sought to tie Omar, a Muslim woman who immigrated to the United States from Somalia, to terrorism. In April, he shared a video from his Twitter account that interspersed an Omar speech with footage of the September 11 attacks, seizing on one line from the congresswoman: "Some people did something." This was a version of her remarks clipped to misrepresent her message: she was suggesting all Muslims' civil liberties came under threat because of what the 9/11 attackers had done. But the president seized on the misrepresentation nonetheless, sharing a video that led to a spike in death threats against Omar.

Trump's comments here seemed to be an even more propagandistic spin on the 9/11 episode, going a step further to suggest Omar said Al Qaeda was "wonderful." He also said, straight out, that she "hates Jews."

This is an extreme new formulation of the allegations that Omar is anti-Semitic, which are tied to her comments on the Israeli government's influence on American politics through lobbying. Omar apologized for language she used that drew on anti-Semitic tropes. But the president does not care about accuracy, and he seems especially keen recently to lean into his most essential message: America is a country by and for white people, and everybody else should be happy to be here.


He expressed this outright ethnonationalism elsewhere in his performance on the White House lawn.

Notice Trump directly pivots from defending what Fox News' John Roberts calls his "common cause" with white nationalists to a rant about how great the economy is. It does not matter what the Dow Jones Industrial Average is, or even how many people agree with your racism—it's still racism. At points in this latest controversy, Trump has denied his racism was racist, but he didn't even really do so here. He seems determined to stake out his place in American politics more directly than ever before, and he's going to dangerous new places in order to do so. He has embraced political violence already, and his supporters have listened. It is going to get worse.

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