WASHINGTON – As President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks Monday on four House Democratic freshmen nicknamed “the squad,” Muslim and immigrants rights groups in Chicago slammed Illinois Republicans for a Facebook post on a GOP site calling the quartet the “Jihad squad.”
Trump, in a race-baiting strategy he apparently sees as a way to win a second term, said in a Monday tweet: “The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border...And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!”
“The squad” consists of four outspoken House members who are among the most progressive in Congress: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who was raised in Chicago.
In a CNN interview, Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., was asked her reaction. “Well, it’s incredibly disappointing that the president continues to lob these horrible insults to my colleagues who are smart, who are prepared, who are doing their work and service to our great country.
“But guess what, Mr. President — we’re not going anywhere, and we’re not scared of you. And so we’re going to continue to to serve the people, improve health care, deal with this humanitarian situation our border and make sure that we are serving the American people in the way that they have instructed us.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, in a tweet, applauded an apology from Illinois GOP leaders for the offensive Facebook post, but the governor added that “simply speaking out this one time isn’t enough.”
Trump is intent on keeping the spotlight on “the squad.” He first hit the lawmakers — all women of color — more than a week ago, when he said in a tweet they should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Only Omar was born outside the U.S.
Monday in the Oval Office, a pool reporter asked Trump why he was “escalating your feud with the four congresswomen, and [escalating] racial tensions in so doing?”
Replied Trump: “Well, I think they’re very bad for our country. I really think they must hate our country.”
Trump, continuing to try to deflect attention from what he is saying, added:
“I think they’re very bad for the Democrat Party. I think you see that. And they’re pulling the Democrats way left. Nobody knows how to handle them. I feel they’re easy to handle. To me, they’re easy to handle because they’re just out there. They’re very bad for our country. Absolutely.”
Trump also denied stoking racial tensions.
Trump spoke and tweeted the day after the leaders of the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association, the Illinois Republican Party and the Cook County Republicans denounced a mock movie poster appearing Friday on the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association Facebook page depicting the four as the ‘Jihad squad.”
”It has become common practice to see these types of memes on various social media belonging to Republican Party officials,” Ahmed Rehab, the Chicago executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a Loop press conference Monday.
“Sometimes they’re taken down and an apology given too little, too late. Sometimes they remain out there. But the fact remains that there is a cultural problem that allows these types of problematic, xenophobic, racist imagery to continue to come out regularly on those Facebook and Twitter and Instagram pages.”
Lawrence Benito of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights also was at the news conference.
“The president’s words have consequences,” Benito said. “We see this now because the presidential election cycle has started. We’re going to see more of this to come as the election cycle continues.”
The bogus poster, since deleted, was not created by the chairmen’s group; it first appeared July 17 on pastorwardclinton.com. A message left on that site was not returned.