WASHINGTON — Facing growing accusations of racism for his incendiary tweets, President Donald Trump lashed out at his critics Monday and sought to deflect the criticism by labeling a leading black congressman as himself racist.
In the latest rhetorical shot at lawmakers of colour, Trump said his weekend comments referring to Rep. Elijah Cummings’ majority-black Baltimore district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live” were not racist. Instead, Trump argued, “if racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess.”
“His radical ‘oversight’ is a joke!” Trump tweeted Sunday.
After a weekend of attacks on Cummings, the son of former sharecroppers who rose to become the powerful chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Trump expanded his attacks Monday to include a prominent Cummings defender, the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score,” Trump tweeted ahead of the press conference, adding that the civil rights activist and MSNBC host “Hates Whites & Cops!”
Sharpton fired back at the president in a tweet of his own, saying, “I do make trouble for bigots.”
Meanwhile, Trump convened a group of “wonderful Inner City Pastors” for an unannounced closed-door meeting to discuss the issues facing the black community Monday.
“This country needs healing. There’s so much division in America along racial lines,” said Bill Owens, president of the Coalition of African American Pastors.