Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn’t often offer up his opinion of President Donald Trump — or even utter his name.
But on Friday, the Republican governor criticized the president’s reported “shithole countries” comment, which has sparked outrage across the country.
“That language has no place in political conversation,” Rauner told reporters in Rockford after meeting with local business leaders.
U.S Sen. Dick Durbin on Friday said the term was used repeatedly during a meeting that was, ostensibly, a discussion about a potentially bipartisan deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA. Trump has denied using those words, saying he used “tough” but not derogatory language.
Dating back to the 2016 presidential campaign, Rauner has walked a careful line with Trump, distancing himself from the billionaire developer and reality TV star to avoid alienating moderate Republicans or independents in the blue state of Illinois. But Rauner has largely sidestepped harsh criticism to avoid a backlash from Trump supporters who also back the governor.
For the most part, Rauner has steadfastly refused to even discuss Trump. In February 2017, Rauner boycotted a dinner the president hosted for 46 governors at the White House during the National Governors Association meeting. Rauner left Washington early, rather than risk being photographed with Trump.
But last August, after months of refusing to say Trump’s name, Rauner called his fellow Republican out for remarks that “damage America,” saying he “vehemently disagrees with the president’s comments about the tragedy in Charlottesville.”
The rare mention of Trump’s name came on Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair after reporters asked the governor about the president’s comments that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Virginia.
The governor was also asked then why he still would not mention Trump’s name.
“I just said ‘president,’” Rauner said. “President Trump. I vehemently disagree with his comments. We have to condemn that sort of action, those actions by frankly disgusting despicable white supremacist groups, we’ve got to call them that and we’ve got to condemn their actions.”
While his Democratic gubernatorial opponents have consistently tried to link the governor to Trump, Rauner last year acted on legislation that drew criticism from the Trump administration. Last August, Rauner signed the TRUST Act, a law designed to protect Illinois’ half-million undocumented immigrants from deportation, The bill restricts local law enforcement from collaborating with federal immigration agents to detain anyone unless the feds have a warrant.