NY Republican Reps cautiously denounce tweets

New York state is much more likely than congressional Democrats to beat Trump in court.
New York state is much more likely than congressional Democrats to beat Trump in court.
Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock
New York state is much more likely than congressional Democrats to beat Trump in court.

NY Republican Reps cautiously denounce tweets

Their statements fell short of calling the president’s comments racist.
July 18, 2019

Although, on Tuesday, all of the Republicans in New York’s congressional delegation voted against a House of Representatives resolution denouncing the President Donald Trump’s racist tweets about four of their Democratic colleagues, most New York congressional Republican’s did mildly criticize Trump’s statements. None of them, however, have spoken up about the chants of “Send her back,” in reference to Omar, from the crowd at Trump’s Wednesday evening rally in North Carolina. 

The chants at Trump’s rally came in response to an extended attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of the four left-wing congresswomen of color that Trump had previously maligned on Twitter. The others include Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Trump’s fellow New Yorker Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In the tweets, Trump said the four congresswomen, nicknamed the Squad, “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world.” And he went on to say that they should, “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Although all the congresswomen except Omar were born in the United States, all four are U.S. citizens and Ocasio-Cortez’s place of ancestry, Puerto Rico, is part of the United States, the tweets were widely seen as part of Trump’s larger attack on immigrants.

New York is a racially and ethnically diverse state that is home to a large population of immigrants. According to American Community Survey data there are 4,490,656 immigrants living in New York state, nearly one-quarter of the state’s 19.5 million residents. Even the congressional districts represented by Republicans in New York are home to a number of immigrants. 

While most New York Republican representatives disagreed with some portion of Trump’s tweets, all of their statements were coupled with a rebuke of the progressive Democratic lawmakers. Despite sometimes-sizeable black or Latino and foreign-born populations in their districts, their comments were muted compared to those of Democrats from neighboring districts, who were overwhelmingly critical of Trump. (The favorite adjective of New York Republicans in describing Trump’s tweets was “inappropriate.”) They also stood in contrast to the enraged response from some of the same Republican members of Congress, especially Zeldin, to controversial comments from Democrats, such as Omar. Here’s a rundown of what each Republican representative had to say in response to Trump’s tweets and Trump’s Wednesday night rally and some relevant stats about their district’s political and demographic composition. 

Rep. Lee Zeldin 

District 1

2016 presidential results: Trump +12

Foreign-born population: 14%

African-American population: 5%

Hispanic or Latino (of any race) population: 15%

In a statement, Rep. Lee Zeldin focused more on taking aim at the Squad than he did on condemning the president’s comments. He started off by saying that no member of Congress is in the United States illegally and that none of them can be forced to leave. Then he went on to say, “Anyone in or out of Congress living in America with a blame-America-first mentality for everything needs to do some serious self-reflection, especially if they are a member of Congress." He followed up to his original statement by adding that, "Sticking to the merits of the specific disagreements here would have been best.”

Zeldin has not released any comments regarding the “send her back” chant at Trump’s rally on Wednesday. 

Rep. Pete King

District 2

2016 presidential results: Trump +9

Foreign-born population: 14%

African-American population: 11%

Hispanic or Latino (of any race) population: 25%

Rep. Pete King has been inconsistent on his feelings towards the president, sometimes condemning Trump but often praising him. In this case, King clearly denounced Trump’s tweets through a spokesman, calling them, “inappropriate and wrong." He also said Trump should’ve have sent the tweets. King added that there are “legitimate arguments he can make against each of those four members of Congress, but the fact that you are an immigrant or the fact that you are the descendant of immigrants should not be made at all.”

While King was critical of Trump’s tweets, he has so far not commented on the “send her back” chant.

Rep. Elise Stefanik

District 21

2016 presidential results: Trump +14

Foreign-born population: 3%

African-American population: 4%

Hispanic or Latino (of any race) population: 4%

On Monday morning, Rep. Elise Stefanik tweeted a denunciation of the president’s tweets. “The President’s tweets were inappropriate, denigrating, and wrong. It is unacceptable to to (sic) tell legal U.S. citizens to go back to their home country.” However, Stefanik still made sure to distance herself from what she called the “far-left socialist ‘Squad.’” Then on Tuesday night, Stefanik came out in strong support of the president, tweeting a statement that she voted no on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s resolution to denounce the President’s tweets. The statement also accused Pelosi and other House Democrats of “unprecedented partisanship,” and the resolution of being politically motivated. 

Stefanik has not so far weighed in on “send her back.”

Rep. Thomas Reed

District 23

2016 presidential results: Trump +15

Foreign-born population: 4%

African-American population: 3%

Hispanic or Latino (of any race) population: 4%

Spectrum News reported that, on a conference call with reporters, Rep. Tom Reed said he disagrees with Trump’s tweets. “I think the sentiment can be interpreted, rightfully, as offensive and I think it was inappropriate,” Reed said. When he was asked about which part of the statement he specifically disagreed with, Reed said “the reference to going back to the country that you came from, I can understand how that can be interpreted the way that it’s being interpreted.”

Reed also has not addressed chants of “send her back” at Trump’s rally.

Rep. John Katko

District 24

2016 presidential results: Clinton +4

Foreign-born population: 6%

African-American population: 9%

Hispanic or Latino (of any race) population: 5%

Katko tweeted, “the President’s tweets were wrong. I have vehemently criticized lawmakers on the far-left when I disagree with the direction in which they want to take the country – but criticism should focus on policy.”

Katko has not made any statements about the chants at the president’s Wednesday rally.

Rep. Chris Collins 

District 27

2016 presidential results: Trump +25

Foreign-born population: 3%

African-American population: 3%

Hispanic or Latino (of any race) population: 3%

Rep. Chris Collins, a staunch Trump ally, was the only Republican member of the New York congressional delegation who was fully supportive of the president and didn’t denounce any part of his tweets. In a statement, Collins mostly went after House Democrats, saying: “This latest deflection is nothing more than an attempt to hide their dismal record in which they have failed to pass one meaningful piece of legislation save for reopening the government last winter and a disaster relief bill that half of them voted against." It’s consistent with Collins’ recent political strategy of xenophobia and division. 

Collins has also stayed mum on the “send her back” chant.

Ethan Stark-Miller
is an editorial intern at City & State.
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