JUDY WOODRUFF: The firestorm over President
Trump’s racist rhetoric spread to Capitol
Hill today, where a vote in the U.S. House
of Representatives is uniting Democrats and
testing Republicans’ willingness to criticize
the commander in chief.
Lisa Desjardins begins with how the day’s
LISA DESJARDINS: Two days after the president’s
initial tweets, today, Senate Majority Leader
Republican Mitch McConnell responded.
MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The president is not
LISA DESJARDINS: Yet the Republican leader
didn’t exonerate the president.
He choose to blame him and Democrats both.
MITCH MCCONNELL: I think there’s been a consensus
that political rhetoric has really gotten
way, way overheated.
From the president, to the speaker, to freshman
members of the House, all of us have a responsibility
to elevate the public discourse.
Our words do matter.
We all know politics is a contact sport.
LISA DESJARDINS: From fellow Republican and
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a different
tack, changing the subject to broader themes.
KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I believe this is about
This is about socialism vs. freedom.
I think this party has been very clear, we
are the party of Lincoln.
This party believes in the content of the
LISA DESJARDINS: Indeed, there was ideological
divide, as Democrats like Pramila Jayapal
were happy to point out as well.
PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Dissent is patriotic.
The thing that has always made America great
is that people are willing to make it better.
LISA DESJARDINS: All of this after President
Trump’s tweets on Sunday claiming that four
Democratic congresswomen of color are from
other countries, that they are too critical
of the U.S. and should consider going back
to where they came from.
All of them are American citizens.
Three were born in the United States.
The president echoed some of his words again
today at the White House.
DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
They should love our country.
They shouldn’t hate our country.
LISA DESJARDINS: Meanwhile, his senior adviser,
Kellyanne Conway, touched off a different
debate, as she tried to turn the table on
a reporter asking about the president’s words.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, Counselor to President Trump:
What is your ethnicity?
ANDREW FEINBERG, Breakfast Media: Why is that
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Because I’m asking a question.
My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.
LISA DESJARDINS: The reporter refused to answer.
A few miles away, on Capitol Hill, one of
the lawmakers in the center of the storm,
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of
New York, said today the GOP needs to condemn
the president’s words themselves.
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): They have
targeted four congresswomen of color who are
American citizens with a classic line of white
supremacy, and they are trying to pivot, and
they are trying to excuse it.
LISA DESJARDINS: Later, in an unusual moment…
MAN: All members will suspend.
LISA DESJARDINS: The House of Representatives
came to a full stop in the middle of a debate
on the president’s words, and whether the
House should condemn them.
The question surrounded these remarks, very
rare about a president’s actions, from House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): These comments from the
White House are disgraceful and disgusting,
and the comments are racist.
LISA DESJARDINS: House Republicans immediately
pointed to rules against maligning the president,
and invoked a rare form of objection to those
MAN: I make a point of order the gentlewoman’s
words are unparliamentary and request the
words be taken down.
LISA DESJARDINS: The action is not finished
for the day.
House Democrats expect to pass a resolution
condemning the president’s tweets as racist.
Tonight, that may be a test for some Republicans.
Mr. Trump has urged them to vote no.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins me now.
So, Lisa, you have been talking today to a
number of Republicans.
How are they reacting?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, there’s a difference
between private and public life for the Republicans
Publicly, some of them will vote with Democrats
tonight, but probably not many.
Most of them will stick with the president
on this resolution to condemn him.
But, privately, Judy, there is a divide among
Some are very concerned that these remarks
may in fact push away the very voters they
think they need, suburban white Americans,
who are uncomfortable with this kind of language.
But there are other Republicans who say, no,
we think the president is defending something,
especially in rural areas, that we think is
We think that there is too much talk of racism,
and we’re glad he’s pushing back.
There’s a real divide opening up for Republicans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me — and
we saw just a little bit of this on the floor
of the House — as they are debating this
resolution, it’s gotten really complicated.
LISA DESJARDINS: I can’t stress what a wild,
strange day this has been.
But that’s right.
The House voted — or Nancy Pelosi made these
And the parliamentarian agreed with Republicans
that she was out of line.
In order for her and those remarks to stay
on the books, the whole House had to vote.
Her Democrats had to support her.
Since then, Judy, we have seen an eruption
of tempers and emotion on the House floor,
even as we speak, Democrats reading out everything
they think the president has ever said that
is offensive, Republicans objecting.
It has become a very emotional and raucous
place, the House floor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, you were also telling
me — we were talking just a few minutes ago
— that kind of underlying all this, you’re
seeing really a complicated reaction to what’s
LISA DESJARDINS: This is what I want to get
to, because, at the Capitol, it’s frustrating.
We’re seeing this bouncing ball.
We’re seeing this atmosphere of accusations
But it’s so important to get to the greater
meaning, because, as neither side seems politically
motivated to try and resolve this conversation
about race, I’m also concerned, Judy, that
maybe they’re not equipped.
And that’s because these two sides, as you
talk to them behind closed doors, they define
Republicans are using kind of a an earlier
definition of race, in which the intention
of the person is what’s critical.
Democrats are talking more and more about
what the effect of racism is.
Are people affected by it?
Are their lives changed?
And, of course, Democrats have more people
It’s not an accident that the definition is
evolving, because people of color have more
One really quick example, I talked to John
Thune, a Republican.
I asked him, is there anything you would feel
comfortable calling racism?
He had to pause, and he couldn’t say that
Democrats are not comfortable in how to bring
white — white Americans into the conversation
Republicans are not comfortable talking about
racism at all.
And they are far apart on a very important
JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re bringing something that
has cultural dimensions and so much else.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s so much more than — and
larger than politics.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, we thank you.
LISA DESJARDINS: You’re welcome.