Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell avoided questions reporters raised Tuesday about whether it would be racist for someone to tell his wife, who is an immigrant and U.S. citizen, to go back to her country, CNN reported.
McConnell’s wife is U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who has served that role in Trump’s cabinet since 2017.
The question was asked Tuesday amid news that his colleagues in the House are planning to vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s weekend tweets that targeted freshmen members of Congress, suggesting they go back to their countries.
While McConnell did not say whether such a statement to his wife would be racist, he did express support for her legal path to citizenship.
“The Secretary of Transportation came here at the age of 8 not speaking a word of English, and has recognized the American dream,” McConnell said per CNN. “This is a process of renewal that’s gone on in this country for a very long time, and it’s good for America. We ought to continue it.”
McConnell repeated his belief that the president is not racist and said that the tone of this discussion was bad for the nation, per CNN.
The Republican from Kentucky has avoided calling Trump’s Sunday tweets, or the president himself, racist. Three of the four representatives targeted, who have unofficially been deemed a “squad” and include Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, were born in the United States. All four are U.S. citizens.
Many politicians across the aisle have condemned the president’s rhetoric about the women.
Republican Reps. Mike Turner of Ohio and Will Hurd of Texas have said they believed the statements from the president to be racist, per CNN. Other members of the Republican party condemned the tweets but have not gone so far to say that they are racist.
As USA Today noted, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was born in Taiwan and came to the United States as a child. Prior to being appointed to her current role of secretary of transportation by Trump, Chao served under President George W. Bush as his secretary of labor. Chao was the first woman of Asian American heritage to join the 45th president’s cabinet, per USA Today.
This wasn’t the first time the transportation secretary was brought into the debate over Trump’s tweets. Marc Short, a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence, cited Chao’s presence in the Trump administration as evidence that Trump is not racist, per USA Today.
Like the president, McConnell is up for re-election in 2020.