The four far-left congresswomen known as “The Squad” have repeatedly raised eyebrows since bursting onto the political scene with descriptions of America as “garbage,” anti-Semitic tweets and odd musings on the “calming” effect of the Holocaust.
For months, the freshmen have rattled fellow Democrats and clashed with party leaders by hurling charges of racism and blaming the U.S. for provoking terrorism.
That was, of course, before President Trump tweeted that they could “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” spurring every House Democrat to rally around the foursome and denounce the president as a racist.
Mr. Trump brushed aside the criticism and dismissed the House resolution passed on a mostly party-line vote that condemned his tweet.
He said he was responding to the hate for America spewed by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — aka The Squad.
“They try and make themselves out to be innocent!” Mr. Trump told The Daily Mail on Wednesday. “Take a look at their quotes from the last two years. You won’t even believe the horror — the horrible quotes that they have.”
Their comments and tweets have been making headlines since they were elected in November.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez once described the state of America as “garbage.”
She provoked a furor by claiming the U.S. was running “concentration camps” on the southern border.
The White House balked when Ms. Ocasio-Cortez sided with Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro against Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative for Venezuela.
Last week, Ms. Pressley gave a speech at the Netroots Nation convention of liberal activists and demanded ideological conformity from people of color, which invited criticism of being racist.
“We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice,” she said.
In a podcast interview in May, Ms. Tlaib provided her take on the Holocaust.
“There’s always kind of a calming feeling I tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors — Palestinians — who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people’s passports,” she said. “And just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time. And I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away and it was forced on them.”
The comments drew rebukes from Mr. Trump and conservative commentators for being anti-Semitic and revisionist history.
Ms. Tlaib responded by appearing on NBC’s “Late Night” and called her critics “racist idiots.”
Shortly after taking office in January, Ms. Omar tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
The remark was widely deemed an anti-Semitic trope, but Ms. Omar insisted it was a legitimate critique of Israel’s conduct in the Gaza wars.
She later accused Jewish lawmakers of having an “allegiance to a foreign country” for supporting Israel. She also tweeted that U.S. support was “all about the Benjamins baby.” When asked what she meant, she responded “AIPAC!” referring to the prominent pro-Israel lobby.
Critics again called her words an anti-Semitic trope that Jews buy political influence throughout the world.
It spurred a House resolution condemning her rhetoric, though the bill did not name her. House Democrats eventually watered down the resolution to condemn all forms of hatred, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination.
The resolution passed on a 407-23 vote. All of the opposing votes were cast by Republicans. Every Democrat, including Ms. Omar, supported the resolution.
A month later, Ms. Omar referred to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by saying “some people did something.”
She said she was tired of being asked to answer for the action of Islamic terrorists, but she also resists condemning groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The New York Post responded to her 9/11 remark with a front-page photo of the twin towers engulfed in flames with the headline: “Here’s your something — 2,977 people dead by terrorism.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez called the front-page image “horrifying and hateful.” She complained that showing photographs of the terrorist attack were “triggering.”
Ms. Tlaib defended her colleague’s 9/11 comments by saying, “She does speak truth.”
Their statements on Israel, terrorism and America’s character “not only put them outside the American mainstream but infect those Democrats who refuse to criticize The Squad,” said Richard E. Vatz, a scholar of political rhetoric at Towson University.
He said there was plenty of criticism to go around in the showdown between the president and the congresswomen.
“Republicans should have no hesitation in criticizing Trump’s style without calling it racist, and Democrats, especially Jewish Democrats, have a moral obligation to castigate The Squad’s appalling and anti-American anti-Semitism and a political obligation to criticize their socialistic initiatives,” he said.