In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Oshkosh, said he didn’t agree with President Donald Trump’s latest attack on four Democratic congresswomen of color, but fell short of calling the president racist.
When host Dana Bash first asked if Johnson agreed with the president’s Sunday morning tweet that said “I don’t believe the four congresswomen are capable of loving our country,” Johnson attempted to deflect the question by saying that in the 1960s, love-it-or-leave-it “wasn’t considered racist” and that he would like to see the country “moving toward that colorblind society.”
“Love-it-or-leave-it” was often used in the ’60s against Vietnam War protestors, but has been used repeatedly in this country against people of different races, ethnicities, religions and political viewpoints.
Johnson, who is head of the Homeland Security Committee, then tried to steer the conversation toward immigration, but Bash persisted. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
Bash: Do you disavow his statements last week and this morning, or not? And then we’re going to move on.
Johnson: Yes, well, again, the president did not like the chant. I didn’t like the chant.
Bash: What about incapable of being…
Johnson: And so, hopefully, there won’t be another crowd in one of those rallies that do that.
Bash: What about his tweet this morning saying they’re not capable of loving the country?
Johnson: I mean, that’s his opinion. I don’t agree with it.
Trump has repeatedly targeted Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts over the past week, starting with a series of tweets on July 14, suggesting should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” (three of the four were born in the United States and Omar came to this country as a political refugee when she was 12).
Wisconsin’s Republican delegation has been mostly silent on the issue with only Rep. Rep, Mike Gallagher (8th District), saying “we can all agree were wrong” and only the state’s Democratic delegates voted to condemn his remarks.
The CNN interview was the first time Johnson had responded to questions about the president’s comments. He went on to discuss the possibility of war with Iran (he hopes it won’t happen) and the border crisis.
The senator said it was important to “help create development in Central America, so people don’t feel that they want to move to America,” called the country’s asylum broken and reiterated that the U.S. needed to stop the flow of immigrants.
He also talked about trying to get bipartisan support in the Senate for “Operation Safe Return.” The program would return families without a credible asylum claim “safely — and I underline safely — return those individuals back to the safe zones of Central America.”