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Md. GOP congressman defends Trump’s tweets as ‘clearly’ not racist

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) on Capitol Hill on July 10. Harris represents Maryland’s 1st District. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Rep. Andy Harris defended President Trump on Monday morning after the president tweeted that four liberal congresswomen who are minorities should “go back” to their “totally broken and crime infested” home countries.

The president apparently was referring to Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.). Only Omar was not born in the United States.

Asked whether the Sunday morning tweets were racist, Harris said “no” and said calling someone racist has become the default response to a disagreement.

“Clearly it’s not a racist comment,” he told Bryan Nehman on Baltimore talk radio WBAL. “He could have meant go back to the district they came from, to the neighborhood they came from.”

The host replied that he had not heard that explanation before. Harris said Nehman listens only to mainstream media.

“They all didn’t come from foreign countries, so you’d have to presume that it’s not a country,” Harris said, referring to the congresswomen.

Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Tlaib was born in Detroit, and Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York. Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia; her family fled the country amid civil war when she was a child, and she became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

In his tweet Sunday, the president wrote: “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who 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), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump tweeted. “Then come back and show us how it is done.”

The president expanded his critique on Monday.

Harris is the only Republican representing Maryland in Congress, and his district includes the state’s rural, conservative Eastern Shore. He is an anesthesiologist who specializes in obstetrics, a military veteran and a social conservative.

In the radio interview, he praised Trump as the first president to enforce immigration law in decades.

Asked about Trump’s practice of speaking out on Twitter, Harris avoided criticizing the head of his party.

“Would I do what he’s doing?” he said. “Probably not. But he’s the president.”

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