Senators defend bipartisan bill on facial recognition as cities crack down
GOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said on Monday that it's "outrageous" to call President Trump's tweets telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to "go back" to their countries racist.
"That's outrageous. Of course they're not racist," Perdue, a close Trump ally who is up for reelection in 2020, said when a reporter noted that some used that term to describe the president's rhetoric.
Perdue's comments came after Trump sparked widespread backlash among Democrats as well as a growing number of Republicans when he targeted a group of unidentified progressive congresswomen "who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe."
In the tweets, which appeared to be directed at Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), the president said they should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."
Trump doubled down on his comments Monday during an event at the White House, denying that he was being racist and expressing no remorse when told that white nationalist groups found common cause with his message.
"It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me," Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House during an event designed to highlight American manufacturing.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of GOP leadership who is also up for reelection in 2020, told reporters she believes Trump's tweets were racist.
Other Senate Republicans stopped short of calling Trump's remarks racist.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is up for reelection in 2020, urged Trump to delete his tweets. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called his comments "spiteful," and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urged him to avoid personal attacks.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), when asked if the tweets were racist, said he doesn't read into people's "intentions."
"Identify politics is a poison. It's toxic. ... The president shouldn't have written that. I think it damages him. It damages the country," he said.
When a reporter noted that if another individual made comments similar to Trump's they would be viewed as racist, Rubio added, "Most certainly I think people could take it that way, be offended by it."
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who is running for reelection next year, told reporters he hadn't seen Trump's tweets beyond what reporters had written about the remarks.
"I ... actually, honestly, haven't read anything except what you all have reported. But the reality is that I want to shift back onto the issues," Tillis said.
Pressed about whether he thought Trump's tweets were racist, Tillis added, "I literally don't go on Twitter."