LONDON – Lawmakers and commentators abroad expressed shock and disgust Monday after President Trump targeted Democratic minority congresswomen in tweets over the weekend and told them to “go back” to their countries.
On U.S. soil, the tweets prompted outrage, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., branding Trump’s string of remarks as “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation,” and Democrats defending those believed to be at the center of Trump’s fury: Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
While Republicans largely avoided commenting on the president’s statements, lawmakers around the world did not.
British politician David Lammy branded Trump’s comments “1950s racism straight from the White House.”
Prime Minister Theresa May, who has just days left in office, also condemned the tweets.
“The prime minister’s view is that the language used to refer to these women was completely unacceptable,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the tweets “totally offensive.” Former London mayor and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the president’s comments were “unacceptable.” One of the two men will be selected prime minister next week.
The condemnations comesafter a tense week between Britain and the United States with the special (or not-so-special) relationship at a new low.
“The President of the United States telling elected politicians – or any other Americans for that matter – to ‘go back’ to other countries is not OK, and diplomatic politeness should not stop us saying so, loudly and clearly,” tweeted First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon.
Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, who was born and raised in the city and has frequently clashed with Trump, told a British radio station that this is the type of language he has heard for much of his life – though never from such a source.
“I’ve heard it from racists and fascists. Never from a mainstream politician,” he said. “Here you have the president of the U.S.A. using that same sort of language.”
The outrage came from outside Britain as well.
“Trump’s racism is sickening. Any European politician who fails to condemn this has questions to answer & should be ashamed of themselves,” wrote Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt.
In Germany, commentators condemned Trump’s remarks on Monday. To rely on “ugly sentiments,” wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily newspaper, has “long become part of his strategy.”
Trump’s tweets, the paper wrote, were so “clearly racist, that a debate over their content is a waste of time.”
German news outlet Der Spiegel echoed those comments. In a commentary on its website, the publication said Trump is now relying on an “even more overt and blunt racism” than ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections.
In the West Bank, where Tlaib has relatives and is considered a hometown hero despite having never lived there, many saw Trump’s tweets as a confirmation of what they view as a pro-Israel bias – and an insult to values America purports to uphold.
Bassam Tlaib, one of the congresswoman’s uncles in the West Bank, told the Associated Press Trump’s tweets were “a racist statement meant to target Rashida because she has Palestinian roots.”
“This statement proves that Trump is anti-Palestinian, anti-Islam and completely biased toward Israel,” he continued.
The Palestinian Authority, which has cutoff ties with the White House over a succession of Trump policies that have favored Israel, called Trump’s statement an “insult” to the concept of American rule of law, according to the AP.
“It’s an insult to the Statue of Liberty, America’s most famous symbol, an insult to the American values where migrants from all over the world are united as one nation under one law,” said Ibrahim Milhim, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the tweets when asked whether he considered them racist during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday.
“That is not how we do things in Canada,” he said at a military base in Petawawa, Ontario. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and the diversity of our country is actually one of our greatest strengths and a source of tremendous resilience and pride for Canadians. We will continue to defend that.”
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The Washington Post’s Rick Noack in Berlin and Amanda Coletta in Toronto contributed to this report.