During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fielded questions about President Trump’s “go back” tweets that have been at the center of debates in Washington this week.
McConnell began by stating he felt political rhetoric has gotten out of control on both sides of the aisle, referencing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison of Border Patrol detention centers for illegal immigrants to Nazi concentration camps and Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic remarks.
“I think that's a good lesson for all of us. From the president to the Speaker to freshmen members of the House, all of us have a responsibility to elevate the public discourse,” he said. “It's about time we lowered the temperature all across the board. All of us ought to contribute to a better level of discourse.”
McConnell then opened up questions to reporters, and that’s when CNN’s Manu Raju asked if it would be racist for someone to tell his immigrant wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, to go back to her country. Chao was born in Taiwan.
Check out how McConnell responded below.
MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: You're married to an immigrant that is a nationalized U.S. citizen. If someone were to say to her she should go back to her country as a criticism of federal policies, wouldn't you consider that a racist attack?
MCCONNELL: Well, the Secretary of Transportation came here at age eight legally, not speaking a word of English, and has realized the American dream. And I think all of us think that this is a process of renewal that's going on in this country for a very long time and is good for America. We ought to continue it.
RAJU: Was it racist for him to say go back to the country of (INAUDIBLE)?
MCCONNELL: As I said, the--the immigration has been a fulfilling of the American dream, and new people who come here have a lot of ambition, a lot of energy, tend to do very well and invigorate our country, and my wife's a good example of that.
(Transcript via RealClearPolitics)
When another reporter noted that he stopped short of ever referring to Trump’s remarks as racist, McConnell defended the president saying he “is not a racist.”
“I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country, but it's coming from all different ideological points of view,” he responded. “That's the point. To single out any segment of this I think is a mistake. There has been this kind of rhetoric from a whole lot of different sources all across the ideological spectrum in our country.”