President Donald Trump’s recent tweets and statements about four Democratic congresswomen have drawn the ire of local Democrats, but little response from local Republicans.

Last weekend, Trump tweeted that progressive Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.”

On Wednesday at a rally at East Carolina University, Trump’s supporters chanted, “Send her back,” a reference to a Somalian-born congresswoman among the four who spoke out against Trump and his policies.

The three other congresswomen were born in the United States: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

The fourth, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her family fled the country and civil war when she was a child, and she became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

Trump’s statements were harshly criticized by North Carolina Democrats, who called them racist.

The N.C. Democratic Party issued a statement Thursday about Trump’s rally in Greenville, saying Republican lawmakers and candidates must answer why they support Trump, who the statement said encourages racist attacks.

“Last night was deeply upsetting, but not surprising from a president and party that encourages division and hate on a daily basis,” the statement said. “This isn’t who North Carolina is, and North Carolina Democrats reject this hate and stand with our immigrant and marginalized communities to unequivocally say, ‘You belong here and you are welcome.’ ”

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-12th, said in a statement that Trump should apologize and described Trump’s tweets as hateful and un-American.

“And there has been no apology,” Adams said. “Instead, the president has doubled down on his dangerous rhetoric, proving that he is a racist who is unfit to serve.”

Spokespeople for U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, Ted Budd, R-13th. and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr didn’t respond to a Journal reporter’s phone messages and emails, seeking comment about the president’s tweets.

Aaron Berlin, the chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, couldn’t be reached for comment.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-6th, issued a statement Monday that didn’t directly address Trump’s tweets.

“We defeat socialism by highlighting its inequalities and failures, not the lineage of those who promote its failed policies,” Walker said. “In serving our minority communities, President Trump’s work is unparalleled. He should allow his actions to speak louder than his tweets.”

Allan Louden, a communication professor at Wake Forest University and expert on political rhetoric, said Walker’s statement about Trump’s tweets is a measured political message.

“He (Walker) deflects the president’s critics by labeling the debate as ‘socialism versus Trump,’ ” Louden said. “Rendering the debate as a referendum on socialism goes back in U.S. history to the Wobblies and anarchists, and in more modern times as disqualifiers from civil rights to health-care advocates.”

Wobblies refer to the Industrial Workers of the World, an international labor union founded in Chicago in 1905.

“The representative’s message is also a subtle rebuke of Trump’s ‘blame by Tweet,’ ” Louden said. “He says in so many words, ignore how and what Trump said and look at what he does.

A week-long debate

Trump wrote in a series of Sunday tweets that, “So interesting to see Progressive Democrat Congresswomen who originally came from countries whose countries 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 people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how 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. These places need your help badly. You can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements.”

In another string of tweets Tuesday morning, Trump insisted his tweets were not racist — “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” he wrote — and urged fellow Republicans not to fall into a “trap” by voting Tuesday on the Democratic-backed resolution that condemns Trump’s comments.

The U.S. House voted 240-187 Tuesday night, nearly along party lines, on a resolution that condemned “Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color,” according to the resolution.

Every House Democrat and four House Republicans supported the resolution. Among the North Carolina’s congressional delegation, Adams and U.S. Reps. David Price, D-4th, and George Butterfield, D-1st, voted for the resolution, according to congressional records.

Voting against the resolution were Walker, Foxx, Budd, George Holding, R-2nd, David Rouzer, R-7th, Richard Hudson, R-8th, Patrick McHenry, R-10; and Mark Meadows, R-11th.

At Wednesday’s rally in Greenville, some people in the crowd booed Tillis when he appeared on stage, according to news reports.

Tillis, whose re-election bid has been endorsed by Trump, deflected reporters’ questions about Trump’s tweets.

Tillis said he hadn’t read the president’s tweets, but only read news reports about them. Tillis added that he was not focused on the “communications of other people.”

“The reality is I want to shift back onto the issues and the America that they represent versus the America that I want to see,” Tillis told reporters at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. “So I’m focused more on the issues and less on the communications of other people.”

Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib held a news conference Monday in which they described themselves as a part of a nation of tolerance that offers opportunity to people like themselves.

Louden said Trump’s tweets about the Democratic congresswomen follow a pattern.

“When the entire immigration question has been discussed in racist terms — that is how it will be heard,” Louden said. “Who’s excluded and who’s in for Trump is probably more political than racist. I think (that) a president ought to be going to citizenship-naturalization ceremonies and praising what it means to be U.S. citizen rather than lessening U.S. citizens who are U.S. congresswomen.”

‘Tapped into simmering anger’

Kevin Cokley, a native of Pilot Mountain and the director of the Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an email that Trump’s tweets are not usually rooted in fact or misrepresent the truth.

“His comments perpetuate the myth that the United States has no corruption and is not subject to high rates of crime,” said Cokley, a professor of educational psychology and African and African diaspora studies at University of Texas. “The United States ranks 49th out of 123 countries, which does not make us a model country in this regard.

“More importantly, Trump is able to make these type of comments without fear of consequence because he has tapped into a simmering anger and deep-seated resentment among some white people about the changing demographics of this country and a sense of losing power and privilege,” Cokley said. “In Trump, his supporters see a president who is not bound by convention, establishment politics or political correctness. He dares to say what most politicians would never say publicly, and he has made bigotry and racism acceptable.”

Larry Johnson, the chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, said he was dismayed and frustrated with Trump, and that the president should apologize for his actions.

“The country has so many critical issues needing immediate attention,” Johnson said in an email. “Yet we have the president of the United States verbally attacking four women of color, U.S. citizens, and legitimately elected U.S. congresswomen who disagree with his policies. These attacks feed on stereotypes that diminishes these women’s positions and intellect.”

The Forsyth County Democratic Party considers Trump’s attacks as just a narrative change and a distraction to take the focus away from what is happening with (the) Immigration and Customs Enforcement and what is happening on the U.S. southern border, Johnson said.

“These personal attacks were offensive, racist, and divisive,” Johnson said. “One of the president’s key responsibilities is to serve as the nation’s ‘healer’ in difficult times. He has failed in this responsibility.”

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jhinton@wsjournal.com 336-727-7299 @jhintonWSJ

The Associated Press and The (Raleigh) News and Observer contributed to this story.

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