- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sen. John Kennedy continued to defend President Trump Wednesday for his tweets against four congresswomen of color, saying the comments were not racist but a “poor choice of words.”

Mr. Trump drew controversy Sunday for comments telling Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to go back to their “broken and crime infested places from which they came,” which has drawn condemnation from both sides of the aisle.

The Louisiana Republican’s interview with CNN’s “Newsroom” followed the president quoting the senator Wednesday morning on Twitter, calling the dubbed “Squad” “left wing cranks,” “whack jobs” and “the reason there are directions on a shampoo bottle,” seemingly questioning their intelligence.

CNN’s Jim Scuitto asked whether those words help further the debate. Mr. Kennedy responded that the statements were meant to be “heartfelt” toward the Democrats.

“Heartfelt is calling sitting congresswomen whack jobs? Really,” Mr. Sciutto asked.



“Yeah. I believe that. I think the four congresswomen are more famous than wise. Look this is America, they’re entitled to their beliefs, I’m entitled to mine,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Mr. Scuitto then quoted Mr. Kennedy saying the president shouldn’t “exchange playground insults.”

“Aren’t these playground insults,” Mr. Scuitto asked.

“I guess from one point of view you could make that argument, but if it were up to me, I would follow the advice I gave the president and say, ‘Let’s not engage these playground insults,’ but we’re in them,” the senator said.

“I don’t think the president is a racist. I did not believe his original tweet was racist. I thought it was a poor choice of words. It worried me that some immigrants in America, we’re a nation of immigrants, would be offended by his words. He quickly clarified,” Mr. Kennedy said, “I believe the four congresswomen think that America was wicked in its origins. … I think they also think that America is even more wicked today. I think that they believe that many Americans, maybe most Americans are racist, are misogynistic.”

When Mr. Sciutto asked Mr. Kennedy to back up those claims, Mr. Kennedy referenced Ms. Pressley Saturday telling minority groups “don’t come” serve in government if you’re not ready to “represent that voice.”

“I think she said, ‘We don’t need any more queers who don’t want to be a queer voice,’” he quoted, “Now do I think the congresswoman is homophobic? No. Do I think she hates gay people? No. Nor do I think that the president is a racist, or hates people of color, but when I first heard that comment. … it made me cringe.”

“This is America, you’re free to leave anytime you want to if you hate our country so much,” he said.

When Mr. Sciutto tried to close out the show saying, “We’ll disagree on whether criticizing the country constitutes hate,” Mr. Kennedy quickly retorted that it was the “degree of criticism” that’s the issue.

“It’s the way you criticize. I don’t think it’s fair. … I don’t think it lifts America up to be anti-immigrant. I also don’t think it lifts America up to call people queers. I don’t think it lifts America up to spread anti-Jewish tropes and say it’s all about the Benjamins. I don’t think any of this lifts America up,” the senator said.

House Democrats voted Wednesday to condemn Mr. Trump’s tweets insulting the four freshman congresswomen, arguing the comments amounted to a racist attack that pushed anti-immigrant sentiments.

The resolution passed mostly along party lines in a 240-187 vote, with four Republicans and newly minted independent Justin Amash voting with Democrats.

Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this article.

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