U.S. Sen. Rick Scott claims Trump’s comments against women of color in Congress aren’t racist, plus more reaction from Florida leaders

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks as reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) listen during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on the four progressive Democratic congresswomen, saying that if they're not happy in the U.S. "they can leave." (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – As outrage grows over President Donald Trump’s comments against four women of color serving in Congress, Republican Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott insisted that Trump’s comments are “not racist” and went on to further publicly attack the women.

Scott, according to the Miami Herald, said he disagreed with the president’s inflammatory rhetoric but insisted it wasn’t racist and then accused America’s  Democrats of being anti-Semitic:

“It was clearly not the way I would do it but let’s remember the position that these Democrats have taken. They’ve become the anti-Semitic party now and so that’s wrong. Our country is not anti-Semitic. They are attacking law enforcement, our border agents and ICE. That’s wrong. These people are doing their job,” Scott told the Herald.

The Herald also tracked down Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, and asked him if he believed Trump’s remarks were racist. Rubio demurred, saying: “First of all, I disagree with the term that because somehow your parents were born in another country that somehow makes you less American. Perhaps that wasn’t his intent. I can’t tell you what his intent was. The White House and the president can tell you that. I can only tell you that when presidents speak, it has an impact.”

The state’s leading Republican, Trump ally Gov. Ron DeSantis, has not publicly weighed in on Trump’s remarks.

Trump doubled down on his inflammatory tweets on Monday, saying at the White House that the four Democratic freshmen —  Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – are “free to leave” the country. He accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of being a racist.

Trump tweeted Sunday that the congresswomen “go back” to the countries they came from (although three of the four were born in the United States).

Rubio told the Herald that members of his own family were told to go back to their country after arriving in the U.S. from Cuba.

“I think the implication by anyone that you somehow don’t belong, you’re not as American as someone else because your parents were born somewhere else is something I do not agree with,” Rubio said. “I think it is directly counter to what makes America unique.”

While most of Florida’s top Republicans remain quiet, Florida Democrats lashed out in reaction to the Trump’s tweets on Sunday and his subsequent comments to the media on Monday.

Former Florida governor Charlie Crist, who now serves as a U.S. Representative from St. Petersburg said: “Petitioning the government, protest, speaking truth to power are as American as apple pie,” Crist tweeted. “That’s why Founders put it in 1st Amendment. President could not be more wrong in his latest tweets & remarks. Beneath the office, intentionally divisive, hateful, unpatriotic. #Goldenrule.”

“This President has abandoned any claim to civility or common decency in exchange for carrying a mantle of racism and bigotry,” said Miami U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala. “His vile words are an embarrassment to his office and to our country.”

“Immigrants in our district are fighting to make the American Dream better for future generations,” tweeted South Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Murcasel-Powell. “@RealDonaldTrump cannot say the same. We should expect far more from a president.”

“The idea that any American should be told to go back to where he or she came from misunderstands what our great country stands for. It’s unpatriotic. It’s racist,” said Boca Raton Rep. Ted Deutch.

“America is a nation that is not defined by a single race, color, or creed,” wrote Orange County Rep. Stephanie Murphy, an immigrant from Vietnam. “I love this country as much as any other U.S. born citizen, and that’s why I chose to serve.”

“The President didn’t just spew racist, xenophobic statements about Members of Congress – he held a press conference to double down on his hate. Disgraceful and reprehensible,” said South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“President Trump proves virtually every day that he is totally unfit for the office he holds,” wrote Orlando area Rep. Val Demings. “I am ashamed to see an American president tell Members of Congress to “go back” to their countries. This is what racism and ignorance look like.”

“The Florida GOP has a duty to come out and condemn Trump’s bigotry and lies. Their silence is deafening,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo in a written statement.

The four Democratic congresswomen targeted by Trump held a press conference Monday to denounce his comments. Tlaib called his language “a continuation of his racist, xenophobic playbook.”

“I want to tell children across this country … that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you, and it belongs to everyone, and today, that notion — that very notion — was challenged,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an upcoming floor vote in the U.S. House — backed by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) and others — on a resolution to condemn Trump’s language. That measure is certain to put some of Trump’s more moderate GOP allies in a thorny political position.

Pelosi called Trump’s language “disgraceful” and said in a letter to her colleagues, “our Caucus will continue to forcefully respond to these disgusting attacks.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told reporters outside of a hearing, “We’ve gotten so used to the president making these kinds of vulgar, racist statements, and I don’t use that word lightly. The question is, what’s going to stop him? And I don’t think anything’s going to stop him.”

Cummings added, “We want a president that brings us together. So Mr. President, I’m not asking you, I’m begging you to stop this, please.”

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.
Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender is the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for The Newsroom, a network of state-based news outlets that includes the Florida Phoenix.
Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

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