Rep. Tom Udall (D., N.M.) on Monday said President Donald Trump bears the most blame for the extreme rhetoric “on both sides” that has led to public confrontations with administration officials.
This comes after Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a restaurant, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced shouting protesters at another restaurant, and Rep. Maxine Waters told her supporters to keep it up. Appearing on CNN’s “Situation Room,” Udall said both sides need to change their rhetoric but he said the ultimate responsibility lies with the president.
“I think we should tone it down, both sides,” he said in response to Trump’s tweet slamming Waters. “If you look at the history of the country, we’ve had some very negative, tough periods, and the president sets the tone. The president here is setting a very negative tone. I think he should cut that out.”
He said Trump being such a “bully” made it hard for members of Congress to maintain their own civility.
“You can see what happens over and over again if anybody challenges him, he’s a big bully and ramps it up four or five times, and so it makes it difficult for us in Congress to try to come together and be civil,” Udall said.
Waters encouraging people to harass administration officials drew backlash from her party’s leaders, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) also laying part of the blame at Trump’s feet.
“In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again,” Pelosi tweeted. “Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable. As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea.”
Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Waters’ comments are neither right nor American.
“No one should call for the harassment of political opponents,” he said. “That’s not right. That’s not American.”
After saying his father taught him to “disagree but don’t be disagreeable,” Udall said the national discourse has turned into a war.
“What we’re having today is warfare that is playing out on your station and other stations around the country which doesn’t help us get to the solutions that we need to have for our country,” he said.
When Blitzer asked Udall to clarify that he did want Waters to “calm down,’ he answered, “yes, of course.”
“I don’t think it is necessary to be insulting individuals,” he said. “I really believe that is a lot more of what we need in this country, and I would tell both sides to cut it out on that front.”