Ahead of the House vote Tuesday to condemn President Trump’s racist tweets about four female Democratic lawmakers of color, a Republican congressman dismissed the outrage by claiming that he’s white and, therefore, a “person of color” as well.
“I think we’re going way beyond the pale right now. They talk about people of color. I’m a person of color. I’m white. I’m an Anglo-Saxon,” Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) told Vice News in a brief exchange on Capitol Hill.
“Has anybody ever told you to go back to your country?” the reporter asked.
“Yeah, they have actually. With a name like Mike Kelly, you can’t be from any place else but Ireland,” Kelly said, adding that it didn’t offend him because he has “thicker skin.”
On Wednesday, Kelly expanded on what he meant.
“My broader point in the five-minute long exchange was apparently lost, so let me say it again,” Kelly said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “It’s time to stop fixating on our differences — particularly our superficial ones — and focus on what unites us. Attempts by Democrats and the media to divide and define us by race are harmful to our nation’s strength. We need to elevate our level of discussion, and I believe most Americans agree.”
At the beginning of that five-minute interview, Kelly said he didn’t even know what Trump had tweeted that had made everyone so upset, although they were detailed in the resolution that the House was debating at that moment.
Trump said Sunday that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), who he said hated America, should “go back” to the countries they came from and fix the problems there. All four women are U.S. citizens, and all but Omar were born in the United States.
The House passed the resolution condemning those tweets, with all Democrats, just four Republicans and the lone independent supporting it.
Kelly defended Trump, saying that the president gets attacked no matter what he says or does and that he is more concerned with what Trump has accomplished than how he talks.
“He’s not a politician, he’s pretty much a guy I grew up with. People would say what’s on their mind at the time,” Kelly told Vice News . “I don’t make my day reading his tweets. He does not offend me. Were people offended? Sure. But people are offended no matter what he says. If he says, ‘Good morning,’ they’re not happy.”