Elijah Cummings rebuked Donald Trump’s continued attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of colour during an interview on Sunday, calling the president a racist and saying his constituents tell him they’re “scared of their leader”.
The Maryland congressman spoke to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos about the House voting last week to condemn Mr Trump’s “racist comments” after the president told the congresswomen to “go back” to their countries – despite all four being US citizens and only one having been born outside the US.
“What I’m hearing over and over again from my constituents, is ‘please save our democracy, please save our country,’” Mr Cummings said. “And you know something else they say George? They say ‘I’m scared.’”
He added, “I have never in my total of 37 years in public service – ever, heard a constituent say that they were scared of their leader.”
When asked if he believed the president was racist, Mr Cummings said, “Yes. No doubt about it.”
He added, “I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I got to tell you George … when I think about what [Mr Trump] said to these young ladies who are merely trying to bring excellence to government and trying to make sure that generations yet unborn have an opportunity to experience a true democracy, when I hear those things it takes me back.”
Mr Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, condemned Mr Trump’s attacks throughout last week as the president spent several days hurling insults towards Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, claiming the congresswomen don’t love the United States.
He said in a statement during the House vote last week he was “disappointed” the president “would share these racist sentiments,” adding, “We are still working to fight against redlining, voter intimidation, hate crimes, and mass incarceration. Our country deserves better than this. The world deserves better than this.”
The congressman later recalled facing similar racist taunts as a child in an interview with NBC News.
“I could not help but think about when I was 11 years old, trying to integrate ... We were taunted. Stones were thrown at us. Bottles. They said the same words. They said, ‘Go back to your neighbourhood. Go back to where you came from.’”
Mr Cummings’ statements echoed that of thousands Americans of colour who also recalled memories of being told to “go back” to where they came from.
At least 16,000 people shared their experiences of dealing with the old racist trope to the New York Times after the president made the incendiary comments last week.