Trump brands mostly-African American Baltimore an ‘infested mess’
Two weeks after being condemned for racist tweets against four Democratic congresswomen, US President doubles down on yet another congressman critic
WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump defended yesterday his latest attack on a prominent African-American lawmaker in comments that drew more accusations of racism.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, Trump took aim at Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings - a high-profile critic, whose district covers much of the majority black city of Baltimore, Maryland.
"Cumming (sic) District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess," the president wrote, calling it "the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States".
"No human being would want to live there," he said, in an attack ostensibly provoked by Mr Cummings' criticism of the harsh conditions facing would-be asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border.
Mr Trump's comments triggered a torrent of criticism and he defended them yesterday in another burst of tweets.
"There is nothing wrong with bringing out the very obvious fact that Congressman Elijah Cummings has done a very poor job for his district and the City of Baltimore," Mr Trump said, without adding anything to back up his argument.
"Just take a look, the facts speak far louder than words! The Democrats always play the Race Card, when in fact they have done so little for our Nation's great African American people," Mr Trump wrote.
"Now, lowest unemployment in US history, and only getting better. Elijah Cummings has failed badly!"
Saturday's diatribe ignited a storm of criticism less than two weeks after the House of Representatives condemned Mr Trump for "racist" comments targeting four first-term Democratic congresswomen who are from ethnic minorities.
The top Democrat in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, on Saturday accused Mr Trump of a "racist" attack on a "champion... of civil rights and economic justice, a beloved leader in Baltimore, and deeply valued colleague".
"We all reject racist attacks against him," wrote Ms Pelosi - who was born in Baltimore and whose father served as mayor of the city.
Former vice-president Joe Biden - the Democratic frontrunner to challenge Mr Trump in 2020 - called out the president directly on Twitter.
"It is despicable for you to attack him and the people of Baltimore this way," Mr Biden wrote. "Once again you have proved yourself unfit to hold the office. A President is supposed to lift this nation up. Not tear it down."
There was condemnation from half a dozen White House candidates, including Mr Cory Booker, who tweeted footage of a CNN anchor and Baltimore native who broke down on air reacting to the attack on his hometown.
"This is painful. This is a moral, defining moment in America," wrote Mr Booker. "Silence is toxic complicity."
Democratic 2020 contender Kamala Harris, who, like Mr Booker is black, said she was "proud" to have her campaign headquarters in Mr Cummings' district and described Mr Trump's attack as "disgraceful".
The city's mayor Bernard Young - also black - rejected Mr Trump's rhetoric, calling it "hurtful and dangerous".
"It was a total insult," he told reporters. "We're not going to ignore anyone degrading Baltimore city and its effective leadership, no one."
A port city of 600,000 people, Baltimore presents a mixed picture, with both handsome and affluent neighbourhoods and poverty-stricken districts. It has one of the country's highest murder rates.
Mr Cummings' district is more than 50 per cent black - and the city of Baltimore as a whole more than 60 per cent.
Mr Cummings himself tweeted: "Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbours.
"It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents."
As chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Mr Cummings - one of the most prominent African Americans in Congress - has launched investigations into Trump administration policies, including reports of poor treatment at migrant detention centers.
In an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, 148 African Americans who served under former president Barack Obama pledged their support for "as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump". - AFP