Trump calls Tlaib's use of expletive 'disgraceful'

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Newly sworn-in Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit told a cheering crowd that “we’re going to ... impeach the (expletive),” referring to President Donald Trump.

Washington — Newly sworn-in U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit faced a bipartisan backlash Friday after saying a day earlier that “we’re going to ... impeach the mother (expletive),” referring to President Donald Trump, who called her remarks "disgraceful."

“I always speak truth to power. #unaplogeticallyme," Tlaib tweeted Friday morning after the video of her remarks went viral on social media.

Her comments drew criticism from the president, as well as her new colleagues in Congress, including fellow Democrats.

Trump at the White House on Friday rebuffed calls for his impeachment: "Well, you can’t impeach somebody who’s doing a great job," he said during a Rose Garden news conference. 

He slammed Tlaib's comments as "disgraceful" and "disrespectful." 

"This is a person that I don’t know. I assume she’s new. I think she dishonored herself, and I think she dishonored her family," Trump said.

"Using language like that in front of her son and whoever else was there, I thought that was a great dishonor to her and to her family. I thought it was highly disrespectful to the United States of America.”

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said impeachment is premature and called Tlaib’s comments "inappropriate," suggesting they could distract from ongoing investigations related to the Trump administration and campaign. 

“I’ve said we will reclaim civility. You cannot accomplish much of anything unless you have civility and show respect for your colleagues, and I think those kind of comments do not take us in the right direction,” Cummings said. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she disagreed with Tlaib's choice of words and isn't ready to pursue impeachment, calling it "divisive."

"I probably have a generational reaction to it," Pelosi said during a town hall sponsored by MSNBC. "I'm not in the censorship business. I don't like that language. I wouldn't use that language, but I wouldn't establish language standards for my colleagues." 

The video clip starts with Tlaib recounting her son telling her, “‘Look, Mama, you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t because we’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the mother (expletive).’” The crowd cheers. 

Tlaib was speaking at a Thursday night party in Washington hosted by the groups and New American Leaders, according to an aide. 

Watch the video here (graphic language).

"Is this how the next two years are going to be? I don’t think using expletive-laden language, especially with a child, helps foster understanding about any situation," said Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland. 

Michigan native Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted that Tlaib “took the politics of Washington deeper down the drain. Elected leaders should elevate, not degrade, our public discourse.”

Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called on Pelosi to condemn Tlaib's impeachment remarks. 

"How do you work with anybody if this is really what they have planned?" McCarthy told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

"Then we watched a brand-new freshman stand up, use this language, get cheered by their base, and we watched a brand-new speaker say nothing to her. That is not the body of what we serve in, and that action should not stand." 

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, did not condone Tlaib's comments but said she represents "a group of people that have strong feelings, and she expressed it." 

"She's one member. We're a large caucus," Dingell told reporters. "The leader has made it very clear how she feels. I have said impeachment would tear this country apart." 

Tlaib ignored reporters' questions as she left a Democratic caucus meeting Friday.

She tweeted: "This is not just about Donald Trump. This is about all of us. In the face of this constitutional crisis, we must rise."

Tlaib, 42, was sworn into office Thursday, becoming one of the first two Muslim women to serve in the U.S. House. 

The former state lawmaker and social justice attorney succeeded former Rep. John Conyers Jr. in representing Michigan’s 13th District, which includes parts of Detroit and Wayne County.

Those who followed her campaign or social media feed know she has previously called for impeachment proceedings against Trump. During orientation last November, Tlaib gave each member of the the freshman class a book arguing for his impeachment.

"I have been very open from the beginning that this is about electing the jurors to impeach this president — in many ways holding him accountable," she told The Detroit News last week.

In a statement, Tlaib spokesman Denzel McCampbell said Friday that Trump is "completely unfit to serve as President." 

"The Congresswoman absolutely believes he needs to be impeached. She ran and won by making this very clear to the voters in her district," McCampbell said.

"Donald Trump’s actions have harmed the 13th Congressional District and this country, and Congresswoman Tlaib will not stay silent while this happens."

State Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, was trying to set up his new office in Lansing when the phone started ringing nonstop Friday. It was callers demanding to register displeasure over Tlaib's remarks, he said. 

"You don’t want to not take anybody’s calls because it might be a constituent, but every call was, 'we want to talk to Rashida,'" said Carter, who took over Tlaib's old seat in District 6. 

"I just hope it’s a hiccup and she can move forward, but they are going to make it rough. There were people who were quite angry. They thought it wasn’t professional, and it was divisive for her first day. Grandparents who had kids watching said she owes an apology." 

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, who has known Tlaib for years, said her language on Trump is "not helpful." 

"I think it’s better to reserve judgment until all the facts are in, which is what I’ve been saying all along," Kildee said. 

"It’s unhelpful to use characterizations that confirm sentiments of some who think there’s such disdain for the president that we can’t discern our own feelings from fact."

But Republicans who express outrage over Tlaib's colorful language are "hypocritical" when they won't do the same for Trump, "who demeans people on a daily basis using language that would get him kicked out of elementary school," Kildee said.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said she does "not support" Tlaib's language, noting she previously called out Trump when he called his former adviser Omarosa Manigault a "dog," and when he referred to "s---hole" countries. 

"Is this president a person I feel is upholding his responsibilities of his oath of office? No. But to use that language — if it's not right for the president, it's definitely not right for a member of Congress," Lawrence said.

"I understand we're all frustrated. This has been a very trying time for us to try to understand why we have a president behaving this way, and we in this House must hold him accountable. But if wrong is wrong on one side, it's wrong on ours." 

Tlaib adviser T.J. Bucholz of Lansing described the congresswoman as a “force of nature” whose “unwavering passion for the people of the 13th" includes a bringing some of the grit from that district to D.C.

“I think she sees the president as the biggest threat to the middle class and working men and women, and she is determined to put a crimp in those plans,” said Bucholz, who served as a spokesman for her congressional campaign. 

From the traditional Palestinian dress she wore for her swearing in, to her animation on the floor, to her comments Thursday night, Tlaib has shown “she’s going to be a different kind of congresswoman,” Bucholz said.

“She does not mince words,” Bucholz added. “Rashida will tell you exactly what she thinks.”

Tlaib was escorted from the audience of Trump's speech at the Detroit Economic Club speech in August 2016 after disrupting it — shouting for Trump to read the Constitution. 

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told reporters Friday she wouldn’t weigh in on the controversy.

Whitmer acknowledged she’s had her shared of “spirited debates,” but said the “building bridges” theme she emphasized in her inaugural address this week has remained a core value.

“I’ve always tried to make sure that in my personal conduct I was able to get back to the table with people that I disagreed with on one issue because we’ve got to find common ground on the next,” Whitmer said.

Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed.