On Capitol Hill, Republicans use bigoted attacks against political enemies


When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., appeared on the House floor this month to announce her proposal to censure the only member of Congress born in Somalia, she said she was seeking punishment for “Representative Ilhan Omar of Somalia, I I mean Minnesota. “

Earlier that same week, Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, called the black husband of another Democratic woman of color, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, a “thug.” He later said that Mrs. Bush, who is also black, had received so many death threats because she was “so loud all the time.”

In a hearing outside the Capitol, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., questioned TikTok CEO Shou Chew about his nation of origin. Cotton repeatedly demanded to know whether Chew, who is from Singapore, was Chinese, had a Chinese passport or was a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

“No, senator; I repeat, I am Singaporean,” Chew responded agitatedly after saying several times that he was not Chinese.

Around the same time, House Republicans released their report on impeachment charges against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Cuban-born Homeland Security secretary and the first Latino to lead his department. Using unusually charged language for a committee report, the panel described his action as “removing Secretary Mayorkas from office.”

In private, the language was uglier. During a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, Rep. Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., chairman of the panel, referred to Mayorkas as a “reptile” because of his refusal to resign from office, according to Political. A White House official condemned the statement, noting that Mayorkas is Jewish and that the comment echoed an anti-Semitic trope.

And all of that was in the span of a week.

Racist speech by Republican members of Congress, both in casual comments and official statements, has become so common that it now often goes unnoticed without real condemnation from the Republican Party. Democrats frequently apologize but no longer expect any response, and those useless complaints quickly disappear in a swamp of polarized content on social media.

The pattern is developing as the Republican Party once again unites behind former President Donald J. Trump, who routinely made bigoted statements during his first campaign for the White House and his presidency. His approach has encouraged some Republicans to freely use rhetoric that denigrates people based on ethnicity, religion or nationality.

“The nature of Trumpism is to embolden extremism,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres, a black Democrat from New York. “Whether harassing an Asian witness about his ethnic allegiances, or dehumanizing a Cabinet secretary, or accusing a Muslim woman of treason, or describing a black man as a thug, Republican members of Congress are crossing lines they never have.” “They should cross paths.”

Torres said the sad reality is that “extreme elements have come to the conclusion that racism may be bad morality, but it is good policy.”

“Instead of representing the best of America,” he said, “Congress increasingly represents the worst.”

If Republicans on Capitol Hill have similar concerns, they rarely express them publicly. President Mike Johnson's office had no comment on the recent incidents.

The Republican Party, which for decades has relied primarily on white voters, has long exploited fear and prejudice to energize its base, whether Barry Goldwater openly opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the use by George HW Bush's black convict Willie Horton in a 1988 presidential ad.

Trump pushed that strategy, entering the national political conversation by promoting the racist lie that President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, was not born in the United States.

As president, Trump routinely made racist comments that transcended the dog whistle, calling African nations “shithole countries,” saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and telling them to the four Democratic congresswomen of color known as “the Squad” to “go back” to where they came from. (Of the four, only Ms. Omar was born outside the United States.)

Trump recently referred to Nikki Haley, a rival for the Republican nomination who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, as “Nimrada,” misspelling her name, Nimarata. He also amplified social media posts that falsely claimed she was not born in the United States.

A Trump campaign spokesman, Steve Cheung, did not apologize for Trump's language, saying, “President Trump tells the truth, and the more people follow his example and speak their minds, the better.”

The racially harassing comments resonate with Trump's political coalition, which is 85 percent white in a country that is 59 percent white and becoming less so every day. Republicans in Congress have also tried to capitalize on the grievances of their base.

Ms. Greene has been raising funds from her proposed censure of Ms. Omar, which was written based on a poor translation of her Somali comments that spread virally on right-wing social media, and has fueled the circle. amplifying hate and misinformation online.

“Ilhan Omar embodies the greatest threat facing America: hordes of immigrants invading our country with no real desire to assimilate or embrace what it means to be American,” Greene wrote in a fundraising appeal aimed at small donors. That language encompasses the central tenets of a conspiracy theory known as replacement theory, which explains demographic shifts as a plot by Western elites, including Jews, to replace and disempower whites.

Stuart P. Stevens, a former Republican strategist who described the Republican Party as “a white party of grievances,” attributed the recent spate of racist language directly to Trump.

“You don't need to argue that Trump made people more racist, but I don't think you can argue against the fact that he did give people permission to express their racist views,” Stevens said in an interview.

“There is someone running for the Republican nomination for president who is making fun of his opponent's ethnic heritage,” he said, referring to Trump's misuse of Haley's first name. “There is no element of the Republican Party that would punish this.”

The Democrats' condemnations appear to have emboldened Republicans.

In her censure resolution, Greene accused Omar of making “treasonous statements” and acting as a foreign agent for the Somali government. She was reacting to a video of Ms. Omar speaking in Somali, which circulated on right-wing social media accounts that misquoted her as saying that she was “Somali first” and that she would dictate US policy toward Somalia.

That translation has since been debunked by several independent media outlets. Indeed, Ms. Omar's comments were in line with the administration's official position on Somalia.

“As long as I'm in Congress, no one will take over the Somali Sea,” he said. “And the United States will not support other people to steal from us.”

But that didn't stop Greene from moving forward with her measure, which cites the poor translation. While some Republicans said they were unlikely to support it, Greene insisted that he “would not rescind it or back down.”

His actions prompted a complaint from Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., sparking a dispute on social media. After Ms. Greene mocked Mr. McGovern's bathroom habits, he responded, “Aren't you late for a Klan meeting?”

Democrats, meanwhile, said the “reptile” comment about Mayorkas was proof that the impeachment process itself was motivated by racism.

“Chairman Green's comments are pure bigotry,” said Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Ill. “This entire impeachment process has been an intolerant and prejudiced spectacle.”

Republicans have provided no evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors as they try to remove a Cabinet secretary for the first time since 1876. Instead, they have accused Mayorkas of deliberately encouraging an “invasion” of immigrants and plan to hold a second vote. on his impeachment on Tuesday, after his first attempt failed.

The AAPI Victory Fund, a political action committee that supports Asian American candidates, condemned Cotton's questioning of Chew as “disgraceful, blatantly racist and deeply dangerous.” But the senator defended him in an interview with Fox News.

“It is entirely reasonable to pursue a line of questioning about whether he himself, like his company, is subject to the influence of the Chinese Communist Party,” Cotton said.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Nehls' “thug” comment was “shameful” and “clearly peddled in racially inflammatory language.” He demanded an apology.

None came.

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