Nancy Pelosi Fires Back at Trump over 'Racist Attacks' on Rep. Elijah Cummings

Congress's top Democrat came out Saturday afternoon against President Donald Trump for what she viewed as a racist attack earlier in the day on Congressman Elijah Cummings.

In a tweet, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoked out in defense of Cummings who had been the target of multiple vitriolic tweets from Trump early Saturday morning.

".@RepCummings is a champion in the Congress and the country for civil rights and economic justice, a beloved leader in Baltimore, and deeply valued colleague," wrote Pelosi, quote-tweeting one of the president's earlier remarks. "We all reject racist attacks against him and support his steadfast leadership."

The president started off his weekend morning by raging against Cummings, whose congressional district includes much of the city of Baltimore, but also a number of surrounding suburban and rural communities in Maryland.

Trump called Cummings, who is also chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee, a "brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA."

A subsequent tweet from the president continued to slather on insults directed at Cummings and his constituents.

"Cumming [sic] District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place," added Trump, who also called for an investigation into federal funds that had been given to the district, even though there are a number of congressional districts that have received billions more in federal grants than Cummings'.

The Maryland congressman issued his own statement earlier in the day on twitter.

"Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors," wrote Cummings. "It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents."

The congressman then used the attention focused in his direction to spotlight the work he had been doing, and called upon Trump to work with Democrats in Congress on the issue of soaring prescription drug prices.

"Just yesterday, I held a hearing on the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs and the financial hardships that families across the nation, and in Baltimore, are facing," he wrote. "Mr. President, we can address this together. Two years ago, I went to the White House to ask you to endorse my bill to let the government negotiate directly for lower drug prices. You told me then that you supported the legislation and that you would work with me to make it happen. I took you at your word."

Unlike Pelosi, Cummings did not directly address the apparent racial aspects underlying Trump's earlier tweet. However, other commentators made the case Saturday that the president's tweets — which came almost immediately on the heels of Fox & Friends airing a negative story on Baltimore — were clearly related to Cummings' — and many of his constituents' — skin color.

CNN anchor Victor Blackwell, who is also from Baltimore, argued Saturday that the president was using barely coded racial language when using the term "infestation."

"Do you see a pattern here... Donald Trump has tweeted more than 43,000 times, he's insulted thousands of people, many different types of people," said Blackwell. "But when he tweets about infestation, it's about black and brown people."

A Newsweek look through the Trump archive of tweets found that the president had used some form of the word at least eight times, with each reference referencing or implying a connection to racial minorities or neighborhoods whose residents are predominantly non-white.

Saturday's Trump tweet comes not even two full weeks after the president used his favorite media platform to attack four Democratic congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, all people of color.

In a July 14 tweet, the president claimed that these first-term progressive legislators "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all)," even though only one, Omar, was born outside the U.S. and all are American citizens.

"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," wrote the president.

Within days, the House of Representatives voted, largely along party lines, to admonish Trump and declare his statements as "racist." However, tensions only increased when, at a July 17 campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump supporters began chanting "Send her back!" after the president began criticizing Omar during his speech. The White House subsequently claimed that Trump had tried to stop the chant by continuing to speak, but footage of the event shows the president stood silent for nearly 15 seconds until the chant had died down before he continued.

nancy pelosi house speaker addresses AOC questions
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answers questions during a press conference at the Capitol on July 11, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Pelosi answered a range of questions including comments on a recent flap with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more progressive members of the House Democratic caucus. Win McNamee/Getty

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts