The Democratic congresswomen targeted in a racist Twitter storm by US President Donald Trump have shrugged off his attacks, appearing together to urge Americans not to be distracted by his “complete hypocrisy”.
Standing side by side at a media conference in Washington DC on Tuesday (AEST), the four women said Mr Trump’s remarks were part of an effort to pit Americans against each other.
“He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender, orientation or immigration status, because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together,” Ilhan Omar said.
Somali-born Ms Omar and her US-born Democrat colleagues Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib – known as “the squad” – are widely believed to be the subject of tweets.
In his latest social media outburst, Mr Trump urged “progressive Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.
Despite widespread condemnation of his first tweets, Mr Trump has refused to back down.
“All I’m saying is, if they’re not happy here, they can leave. There will be many people who will be happy,” he said at a Made in America showcase on Tuesday morning.
We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our Country….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2019
But Ms Omar said it was “complete hypocrisy” for Mr Trump to tell critics of his policies to leave the US.
“When this President ran and until today, he talked about everything that was wrong in this country and how he was going to make it great,” she said.
“For him to condemn us and to say we are un-American for wanting to work hard to make this country be the country we all deserve to live in, it’s complete hypocrisy.”
Describing Mr Trump’s remarks as “blatantly racist”, she warned they reflected “the agenda of white nationalists”.
Ms Pressley said the four Congresswomen represented hundreds of thousands of constituents, as well as marginalised Americans across the US.
“We ran on a mandate to advocate for and represent those ignored, left out and left behind. Our squad is big,” she said.
It’s important to note that the President’s words yday, telling four American Congresswomen of color “go back to your own country,” is hallmark language of white supremacists.
Trump feels comfortable leading the GOP into outright racism, and that should concern all Americans.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 15, 2019
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said Mr Trump did not know how to defend his policies, so resorted to personal attacks.
“Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy,” she said.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents, shared a childhood memory of visiting the Lincoln Memorial with her father, who then told her the US belonged to everyone – including her.
“No matter what the President says, this country belongs to you,” she said, referring to children in the US.
She, Ms Omar and Ms Tlaib also used the media conference to reiterate their support for Mr Trump’s impeachment .
“Sadly, this is not the first, nor will it be the last time we hear disgusting, bigoted language from the President. We know this is who he is,” Ms Tlaib said. “I urge House leadership, many of my colleagues, to take action to impeach this lawless president today.”
Mr Trump’s tweets and subsequent remarks have been widely condemned by many in the US.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has called Mr Trump’s tirade “xenophobic”, said on Monday that Democrats would introduce a resolution to condemn the racist attack. She urged her Republican colleagues to support it.