Senate

Reporter presses McConnell on if it’s racist to tell his immigrant wife to ‘go back to her country’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday declined to say if it would be racist to tell his immigrant wife to go back to her native country in response to questions about President Trump’s recent attacks on four progressive lawmakers. 

McConnell was pressed about the hypothetical as he addressed the criticism Trump has received for telling a group of minority congresswomen to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places” they came from.

{mosads}CNN’s Manu Raju asked McConnell during the press conference whether he’d consider it racist if someone told his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan, to go back to the country she was born in. 

“You’re married to an immigrant who’s a naturalized U.S. citizen. If someone was to tell her she should go back to her country because of her criticism of federal policy, wouldn’t you consider that a racist attack?” Raju asked. 

McConnell responded by celebrating his wife’s story, noting that she came to the U.S. at “age 8, legally, not speaking a word of English.”

He added that Chao “has realized the American dream, and I think all of us think that this is a process of renewal that’s gone on in this country for a very long time, and it’s good for America and we ought to continue it.”

Chao was naturalized as a U.S. citizen at the age of 19. 

Raju followed up by pressing his question. 

“As I said, legal immigration has been a fulfilling of the American dream,” McConnell replied. “The new people who come here have a lot of ambition, a lot of energy, tend to do very well and invigorate our country. My wife’s a good example of that.”

Trump on Sunday sparked an uproar by telling four freshman House Democrats to “go back” to where they came from before speaking out about how the U.S. should be governed. He also claimed that the progressive Democrats “came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.”

He did not identify the lawmakers in his tweet, but the comments were aimed at Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.). Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia, is the only one of the four who was born in a foreign country.

Several Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called the remarks racist. 

McConnell dismissed those accusations, saying Trump “is not a racist.”

“I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country but it’s coming from all different ideological points of view. To single out any segment of this I think is a mistake,” he added. 

His comments came as House Democrats prepare to vote on a formal resolution condemning Trump’s comments as racist. 

Trump, meanwhile, has stood by his remarks about the progressive Democrats, stating that the lawmakers should leave the country if they are not “happy.” 

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ayanna Pressley Donald Trump Elaine Chao Ilhan Omar Mitch McConnell Rashida Tlaib
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