WASHINGTON (AP) — Government officials must stop making "hateful, incendiary comments" that only to serve to divide and distract the nation from its real problems, including mass shootings and white supremacy, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings said Wednesday in comments aimed at President Donald Trump.
Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee, did not name Trump in a speech Wednesday, but it was clear whom he was addressing. Trump disparaged Cummings and his native Baltimore in a barrage of racially-tinged tweets and insults in recent days.
"Those in the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior," Cummings said in a long-scheduled speech to the National Press Club.
Use of such language "only creates more division among us and severely limits our ability to work together for the common good," Cummings said.
Cummings was responding after Trump attacked him over a series of days last month. Trump called Cummings' majority-black Baltimore district a "disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess" where "no human being would want to live," adding "if racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess."
Cummings said Wednesday, "Enough is enough," and he called on the nation to confront hatred, white supremacy and mass shootings.
"We are done with the hateful rhetoric, done with the mass shootings, done with white supremacists and domestic terrorists fighting against everything our country stands for," Cummings said. "We are better than that."
Trump said Wednesday he doesn't think his rhetoric has contributed to violence, even though some of his words mirror language linked to one of the gunmen in two mass shootings this weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that killed 31 people. The alleged shooter targeted Hispanics in El Paso, where most residents are Latino.
"I think my rhetoric brings people together," Trump said before visiting Ohio and Texas. His critics are "political people trying to make points," Trump said.
Cummings said it was not just words that had him worried, noting his 10-year-old niece recently asked him if one day she would end up in a cage like some migrant families on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Instead of focusing on differences, "We must stand together with those who we do not look like, those who we disagree with, and recognize that we have more in common than what separates us," Cummings said.
"We all are sick of this," Cummings added. "We all want decency and respect. We want our communities to be protected. We all want to live in a country where our children are safe when they go to the mall or to the Wal-Mart."
The Texas shooting took place at a Wal-Mart.
Asked about Trump, Cummings again invited the president to tour his congressional district with him, from the poorest parts of Baltimore to more well-to-do areas outside the city in suburban Baltimore and Howard counties.
"Come to Baltimore. Do not just criticize us, but come to Baltimore and I promise you, you will be welcomed," Cummings said on Saturday.
The White House has not responded to the offer, Cummings said Wednesday.