HELENA – President Trump’s incendiary tweets, aimed at four Democratic congresswomen earlier this week, are roiling the political world in Montana, as well as the nation.
Montana’s two U.S. senators haven’t held back — and neither have some others.
President Trump tweeted last Sunday that the Democratic congresswomen should go back to countries they came from, and fix them, before telling Americans how to run this country.
Critics have denounced the comments as racist — including Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, Thursday, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.
“You’ve got to call it what it is: It’s racism. And, quite frankly, it’s dividing the country. That’s how he hopes to win, I guess. But it’s not good for the country,” said Tester.
The four women are of African, Palestinian and Puerto Rican descent — and three were born in the U.S.
Montana’s Republican U.S. senator, Steve Daines, said Monday he stood with the president — and that Montanans are “sick and tired of listening to Anti-American, Anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and ideals.”
But on Thursday, Daines distanced himself from actions at a Trump rally in North Carolina the previous day, where the crowd chanted “send her back” about a Somali-American congresswoman from Minnesota.
Daines said Friday that the comments were inappropriate.
“For me, this has never been about where people are from. It’s never been about race or gender or religion. This is about views that are radical,” said Daines.
He said these House members have called for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and made anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements.
But in an open letter Thursday — a group of Montana rabbis took after Daines — saying he is supporting “racist incitement and personal attacks” on the congresswomen.
Rabbi Mark Kula of Missoula said Friday that the rabbis felt Daines had crossed a line of civility.
“We thought we could bring healing and speak up, and say name-calling, derogatory language, the dismissive tone will not accomplish the goal that we feel is better for American and actually to make our country great,” said Kula.
Daines said he’ll meet with the group — but, he noted, that not all Montana rabbis agree with those who wrote the letter.
Sen. Tester, however, said Democrats and Republicans need to stand up to the president’s harmful rhetoric, in no uncertain terms.
“I don’t think, even in states where Donald Trump won big, that it does you any good running away from Donald Trump. I think you need to go back and punch him in the face. The truth is, this guy is bad for the country,” said Tester.
A Bozeman rabbi who didn’t sign the letter said that his role is not to take sides in political debates.