Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid delivered a scathing rebuke of Donald Trump on the Senate floor Tuesday. In his speech, Reid accused Trump of inspiring a surge in racially motivated harassment and slammed the president-elect for naming an incendiary media figure his top adviser.
Reid called upon Trump to rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon, the controversial former Breitbart News executive whom Reid said is a “champion of racial division.” Bannon’s presence, a mere step from the Oval Office, would make it impossible to take Trump’s efforts to heal the U.S. seriously, Reid said.
“I say to Donald Trump, take responsibility, rise to the dignity of the office — the president of the United States — instead of hiding behind your Twitter account, and show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in the White House or America,” the outgoing Nevada senator said on the Senate floor.
Reid said he has never seen anything like this moment in his five decades in American politics, and pointed to the fact that Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton despite winning the Electoral College.
“His election sparked a wave of hate crimes across America. This is a simple statement of fact. But it raises a critical question for us as a country, as a nation: How do we respond to the election of Donald Trump?” Reid asked.
Reid also released a biting statement Friday criticizing Trump as a “sexual predator,” among other things. The comments drew a strong response from Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, calling them “an absolute embarrassment.” On Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, gave his own floor speech following Reid’s, blasting the Democratic leader’s “tirade.”
“Surely he’s entitled to his opinion, but he does nothing to contribute to the healing of our country after a very polarizing, hotly contested election by continuing to pile on the president-elect and his team,” Cornyn said, according to RealClearPolitics.
For his part, Reid said Democrats would take a pragmatic approach to working with Trump. He cited Trump’s plan to rebuild deteriorated infrastructure as a place of potential bipartisan cooperation.
But he argued that Democrats also have the responsibility to represent millions of Americans who now feel unwelcome in Trump’s United States. He said that Trump’s aggressive behavior and boasting about sexual misconduct should not be normalized for young people.
“We have a responsibility to say that it is not normal for the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, to celebrate the election of a president they view as a champion with a victory parade,” Reid said. “They have one scheduled.”
Outside the Senate chamber, he said, workers could be heard building the platform upon which Trump will stand on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, when he will wield the most powerful microphone in the world.
In his Senate speech, Reid told stories about people he said were affected by the rise in discrimination incited by Trump’s presidential bid. He pointed to his Pakistani-American physician of Muslim faith, as well as Latino and African-American schoolchildren who have dealt with racist bullying in the past week.
“Many of our fellow Americans believe that Trump’s election validates the kind of bullying, aggressive behavior Trump modeled on a daily basis,” he said. “How do we teach our children that bragging about sexual assault is abhorrent, if we rush into the arms of a man who dismisses it as locker room talk?”
Reid said the bulk of the responsibility for making Americans feel welcome lies at the feet of the very man who has inspired their fears in the first place, but that his actions have only deepened, rather than healed, these wounds. He then turned to Bannon.
“In his first official act, he appointed a man seen as a champion of white supremacy to the No. 1 strategist in the White House,” Reid said.
Quoting CNN, he said that white nationalist leaders, including former KKK imperial wizard David Duke, are praising Trump for hiring Bannon as his chief strategist. Reid also brought up court documents in which Bannon is reported to have made flagrantly anti-Semitic statements.
“By placing a champion of white supremacists a step away from the Oval Office, what message does Trump send to the young girl who woke up Wednesday morning in Rhode Island afraid to be a woman of color in America? It’s not a message of healing. If Trump is serious about seeking unity, the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon.”