Trump’s Twitter attack on Cummings and Baltimore: undiluted racism and hate

Congressman Elijah Cummings, who has become a voice of moral authority from his position as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, was the target of a racist Twitter attack on him and his home city of Baltimore from President Trump Saturday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Congressman Elijah Cummings, who has become a voice of moral authority from his position as chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, was the target of a racist Twitter attack on him and his home city of Baltimore from President Trump Saturday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon/AP)

After three years of denouncing President Trump’s use of media to attack, denigrate and, yes, spew racist hate, there are days when I think I do not have a drop of vitriol left for Trump and what he’s doing to this country.

And then comes something like his Twitter attack today on Elijah Cummings and Baltimore, which is the congressman’s home and a part of his district.


You cannot remain silent in the face of such hatred and racism coming from the White House, even as you know you are letting the president force you to focus on him, him, him.

Trump called Cummings, the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, a “brutal bully shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol." The president went on to say Baltimore was “FAR WORSE and more dangerous" than the Southern Border of the United States.


Describing Cummings’ district as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess," Trump also said of the congressman, "If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous place & filthy place.”

In the final tweet of the tirade, he said no “human would want to live” in in Cummings’ district.

Victor Blackwell, morning anchor on CNN Saturday, quickly zeroed in on the use of the term “infested” and Trump’s pattern of regularly evoking the imagery connected with that word when talking about race.

“'Infested — that’s usually reserved for references to rodents and insects, but we’ve seen the president invoke infestation to criticize lawmakers before," Blackwell told his “New Day” viewers at the start of a powerful piece of rhetorical analysis. “You see a pattern here? Just two weeks ago President Trump attacked four minority congresswomen. ‘Why don’t they go back to the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.’ Reminder, three of them were born here; all of them are American. Infested he says.”


Blackwell continued, “A week before his inauguration, January 2017, Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime infested. Donald Trump has tweeted more than 43,000 times. He’s insulted thousands of people, many different types of people but when he tweets about infestation, it’s about black and brown people.”

Blackwell went on the document Trump using the term in connection with African and sanctuary cities in California.

He could have added that the term was used in Nazi propaganda to talk about Jews.

The Baltimore-born-and-raised CNN anchor also responded on-air to Trump saying no human being would want to live in Cummings’ district.

“You know who did, Mr. President? I did,” Blackwell said. “From the day I was brought home from the hospital to the day I left for college, and a lot of people I care about still do. There are challenges no doubt, but people are proud of their community. I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but people get up and go to work there. They care for their families there. They love their children who pledge allegiance to the flag just like people who live in districts of congressmen who support you, sir. They are Americans, too."

I applaud Blackwell for his passionate response. This is one way the media can and should push back against the pain this president causes with his reckless, mean and racist use of social media.

Blackwell has stayed connected as a journalist to his roots. In 2015, in the wake of the uprising following the death of Freddie Gray, he came to Baltimore and did a powerful report for CNN talking to teens here and walking the streets on which he grew up in West Baltimore.

Trump’s Twitter blast at Cummings and Baltimore started during the 7 o’clock hour Saturday morning after a Republican strategist, Kimberly Klacik, on the Fox News show “Fox & Friends,” called Cummings’ district the “most dangerous” in America.

The interview with Klacik was headlined: “How do living conditions in Rep. Cummings Baltimore district compare to those on the border?”

The conversation was accompanied by video on boarded-up row houses and garbage-strewn alleys that Klacik said she videotaped on a visit to Cummings’ district.

“To have Congressman Cummings talking about conditions at the border is laughable,” said Klacik, characterizing conditions in Baltimore as “atrocious.”

Cummings’ district, which includes a large part of Baltimore is not the “most dangerous in America," according to the FBI, which ranks the city as a whole as the third most dangerous in the nation. Cummings’ district, which like the city is majority black, has more college graduates than the country overall and a median income above $50,000.

But the claim of “worst” is exactly the kind of disinformation Trump traffics in on a daily basis.

The sick symbiosis between Trump and the reckless right-wing chatter and political propaganda on “Fox & Friends” has been well documented — in some cases by Trump himself voicing his love of the show.

The attack on Cummings is not unexpected.

In April, at the end of a hearing featuring Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, Cummings delivered an inspired, fiery denunciation of the lies and lawbreaking of the Trump White House.

In a column headlined "The Media Power and Moral Authority of Elijah Cummings, " I wrote that, “Cummings could turn out to be Trump’s worst nightmare based on the Baltimore resident’s powerful position in Congress as chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, his widely-praised recent media performances and shifts in the zeitgeist that have thrust Cummings into the role of being Liberal America’s new best hope (alongside Baltimore-born Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) of reining in Trump.”

Cummings showed more of that Old Testament righteousness and fury in a hearing last week with Kevin McAleenan, the acting head of Homeland Security.

He assailed McAleenan over Homeland Security’s irresponsible and cruel failure to properly keep track of children separated from their parents.

“I’m talking about human beings,” Cummings thundered down from his seat at chairman of the oversight committee. “These are human beings. Human beings just trying to live a better life.”

That’s what Trump was obviously referring to as “bullying” by Cummings, the chairman giving voice to his moral outrage instead of remaining silent in the face of human suffering as Vice President Mike Pence recently did on a visit to the border.

Cummings has said more than once from his pulpit on the oversight committee that we are “better” than this — better than the racist, hateful tweets of our president, better than the lies and hush-money payoffs made by the president’s lawyer, better than the mistreatment of young children that finds them sitting in their own feces in cages at the border.

I know this: Most of us want to believe that we are better than the ugly and unmitigated racism the president has shown through tweets like those of today.


We fought a Civil War to prove it.


We sent federal troops into the South to desegregate high schools and colleges to prove it.

Civil rights workers — black, brown and white — suffered terrible beatings, incarceration and in some instances death to prove it.

And yet, here we are today with a president using social media and the great power of his office to try to bend back the arc of justice and bring the nation to a state of global disgrace.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun