BISMARCK — North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer maintained Monday, July 15, that President Donald Trump is not racist after the president said four minority congresswomen should "go back" to the countries from which they came.
Cramer, a steady defender of the president, instead pivoted to criticisms of Democrats and said he's focused on policy issues.
"President Trump loves this country and does not tolerate the anti-Semitism or radical socialist policies coming from some freshman House Democrats," Cramer said in a statement. "I do not believe it is my job to play referee in a feud between the President and these ever-offended Democrats, even if the media disagrees."
Responding to a question about whether Trump's remarks were racist, Cramer said: "I don’t believe Donald Trump is racist. He is an equal opportunity offender."
In a series of Sunday morning posts on Twitter, Trump said the Democratic congresswomen should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," and he later said they "hate" America. Three of the congresswomen were born in the U.S., and the fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, was born in Somalia but is a U.S. citizen.
House Democrats were preparing a resolution condemning the president's tweets, the Washington Post reported. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Trump's comments "xenophobic."
In a statement, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he "wouldn't have said what the president tweeted" but called for a focus on "policy and issues."
"In that regard, I oppose policies like socialism and open borders, and believe we need to strongly support law enforcement," he added.
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., however, offered the most direct criticism of Trump's comments among the state's congressional delegation, calling them "mean-spirited and factually inaccurate."
"Engage them on policy all day long, but it just wrong to tell any U.S. citizen to ‘go back to where they came from,'" he said in a statement. "Attacking any citizen based on where they are from is never OK."
Trump, who won North Dakota by 36 percentage points in 2016 and campaigned in support of Cramer's successful Senate bid last year, hasn't backed down in the face of bipartisan criticism.
The president called on the "Radical Left Congresswomen" to "apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said." That appeared to, in part, reference previous comments from Omar that were denounced as anti-Semitic.
At a White House event Monday, Trump told reporters that "these are people that hate our country," according to the Post.
Omar accused Trump of "stoking white nationalism" and called him the "the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen."