Former Obama Staffer On Op-Ed Condemning Trump's Tweets Against 'The Squad'
SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:
Tweets from President Trump this morning attacking Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings and calling his Baltimore district, quote, "a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess" are earning condemnation from Democrats and others. The president said in tweets that Congressman Cummings, quote, "has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men and women of Border Patrol about conditions at the southern border when actually his Baltimore district is far worse and more dangerous. His district is considered the worst in the USA," unquote. Trump goes on to say, quote, "no human being would want to live there." Critics of the president's words have pointed out that Cummings' district is majority black and that the insulting language used to describe it is part of President Trump's pattern of making racially inflammatory statements.
Yesterday, 148 African Americans who worked in the Obama administration co-signed an op-ed in The Washington Post titled "We Are African Americans, We Are Patriots, And We Refuse To Sit Idly By." In it, they defend the four congresswomen of color who've been on the receiving end of the president's attacks in recent weeks and assert that the president's, quote, "racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia" are poisoning democracy. Dru Ealons is one of the signers of that op-ed. She's a political blogger and strategist who served as a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration.
Welcome to the program.
DRU EALONS: Oh, thank you. Glad to be here.
MCCAMMON: You all wrote this op-ed before President Trump tweeted about Congressman Cummings. What was your reaction when you saw these tweets this morning directed at Cummings with statements like, if he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place?
EALONS: It has been par for the course for this particular person that occupies the White House to find a way to divide our country along racial lines. So I wasn't surprised. It is who he is, and it's very comfortable for him to attack minorities, be it in the Congress or anywhere else.
MCCAMMON: And why were those tweets from the president so offensive?
EALONS: Because he is speaking about African Americans. And he used such derogatory terms. And to even say that not even humans want to live there hurts so many people because he is challenging their very humanity based on the color of their skin. The negativity, the disregard is a problem and should always be addressed and called out.
MCCAMMON: The statistician Nate Silver tweeted out some facts about Maryland's 7th District, which includes Baltimore and some of the surrounding suburbs. And he says it's the second wealthiest and second most well-educated majority black district in the country. Why do you think President Trump singled out this district?
EALONS: Facts don't matter for this guy, OK? He sees people of color, and he describes them in the most derogatory terms. So he's hitting back at Cummings or trying to bully him just because he sits on this particular committee that is actually doing their job in investigating some of the things that are - been happening in this current administration.
MCCAMMON: The House Oversight Committee.
EALONS: The House Oversight Committee, yes.
MCCAMMON: So let's talk about the op-ed in The Washington Post. It says, we are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by. One hundred forty-eight African American former Obama staffers signed it. Why did you sign?
EALONS: We have all been growing increasingly frustrated and upset about the direction of this country. Not just about policies, right? We're going to likely disagree. But it has been this bomb that I call it he has exploded within this country along racial lines. We have all been frustrated, and so we found a way to actually do something and say something and push back on this narrative around what we're saying about black and brown people as if this is not our country. No matter where our background is, what he's doing as it relates to immigrants - we felt like it wasn't enough being said, and so coming together, we thought our voices together would make a stronger impact.
MCCAMMON: Are you concerned at all that people will just dismiss this criticism of President Trump as a partisan attack?
EALONS: You know, at this point, it doesn't matter. If they want to dismiss it, they can, but they are dismissing the larger point that was being made. He challenged our patriotism. He challenged the citizenship of those four women who are citizens of this country. He consistently challenges that when it comes to people of color. And so at this point, if somebody wants to dismiss it just because they want to see it through the lens of politics, that's a problem. But we elevated the fact that because we served this country and because we love this country, it doesn't mean that we have to sit quietly as we see things going wrong in this country.
MCCAMMON: Dru Ealons is a political blogger and strategist who served as a senior official at the EPA during the Obama administration.
Thanks so much for talking with me.
EALONS: Thank you for having me.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.