Republicans Have a New Strategy for Trump’s “Shithole”: Play Dumb

But voters don’t seem to be buying it.

It would be a difficult task for any Republican to defend President Donald Trump amid the intense backlash over his recent remarks referring to African nations as “shitholes.”

But while most Republicans have remained silent on the controversy, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Sunday fumbled into an awkward defense of the president when she offered Norway as an example of a country Trump is standing up for.

“He is standing up for a lot of the countries that where we have seen some…” Ernst said in response to a woman’s criticism that Trump is causing damage to American allies with his “white supremacy talk.”

“Could you name a few?” one audience member asked.

 “Yeah, you bet,” Ernst said. “Norway is one them.” (During the same immigration meeting, Trump reportedly asked why the United States doesn’t have more immigrants from countries such as Norway.)

The room erupted in laughter.

“You know you laugh, but folks, who borders Norway? Russia!” Ernst continued.

On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen—who was in the room during Trump’s reported “shithole” remarks last week—testified under oath that she did not know if Norway was a predominantly white country. She also claimed that the president was referencing a merit-based immigration system.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J) slammed Nielsen for telling senators that she did not hear Trump use the word “shithole” as widely reported and confirmed by lawmakers in the room last week. “Your silence and your amnesia is complicity,” Booker said.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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