WASHINGTON — Two days after President Donald Trump attacked four Democratic congresswomen, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that "the tone of all of this is not good for the country,” but declined to call the president’s remarks racist.
“I think there’s a consensus that political rhetoric has gotten way, way overheated all across the political spectrum,” McConnell told reporters at a weekly press conference following a closed-door luncheon with Senate Republicans, in his first public reaction since the president's weekend tweets sparked controversy.
McConnell began referring to comments made by Democrats recently in which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., described U.S. border facilities as concentration camps.
“We’ve seen the far left throw accusations of racism at everyone, anyone who disagrees with them on anything, including the speaker of the House,” he said.
McConnell said that the president, lawmakers and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., need to “contribute to a better level of discourse” and everyone involved needed to “lower the incendiary rhetoric.”
Asked whether he would consider it racist if someone hypothetically told his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, to go back to her country, McConnell declined to answer. (Chao was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States as a child.)
“The president’s not a racist. And I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country,” he said, adding that polarizing rhetoric is coming “from across the ideological spectrum.”
Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said at a news conference that he did not believe Trump's tweets were racist.
"I believe this is about ideology; this is about socialism versus freedom," McCarthy said, adding that the four congresswomen "talked more about impeachment than anything else" at a news conference Monday where they responded to the president.
"This is more from their base, it's about politics, and it's unfortunate," he said. "We should get back to the business of America."
The House planned to vote Tuesday on a resolution condemning Trump's "racist comments" directed at four congresswomen, all women of color, who he said should "go back" to the countries "they came" from.
The resolution twice refers to "racist comments" by Trump, though it does not call the president a racist.