BY NATHAN DUKE
Borough leaders blasted President Donald Trump for his recent profane comment regarding certain African nations—and then slammed U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for a defense of the president that insinuated his comments stemmed from his Queens upbringing.
During a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform at the White House, Trump allegedly said that he preferred immigrants coming to the United States from nations such as Norway, as opposed to Haiti, Central America and Africa, calling such places “shithole countries.”
Elected officials—primarily Democrats and U.S. Rep. Mia Love (R-UT)—lambasted Trump’s comments, calling them “racist.”
Queens leaders were further outraged after Paul defended the president during an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press and attributed his remarks to being raised in Queens. Trump was born in Jamaica Estates.
“People are driven here by poverty,” Paul said. “But we can’t have an open border with everyone who wants to come. We have to have rules on our border. We have to be somewhat selective on who comes. So, I think there was a valid argument in there, but you got sort of a Queens saltiness coming out, and then I think people have misinterpreted it that he’s a racist.”
Queens elected officials at the city, state and federal level criticized Paul’s comments.
“I am incredibly disappointed that Sen. Paul would correlate President Trump’s racially insensitive commentary to his upbringing in Queens,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Queens is one of the most diverse places on earth, comprising some of the hardest-working, most self-sacrificing people you’ll find. Donald Trump and the Republican Party are the ones to blame here—Donald Trump for being racist and the GOP for enabling him.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said that the borough is “home to driven, conscientious and kind people” and that Trump’s comments “do not represent Queens.”
“Sen. Rand Paul’s comments were completely uninformed,” she said. “There is no connection between President Trump’s racist comments and his upbringing in Queens, and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that “there is nothing ‘Queens’ about what he said.”
“The president of the United States’ description of other nation stations and entire continents as ‘shitholes’ is indefensible,” Katz said, adding that Queens is a diverse borough where more than 130 languages are spoken by people from 120 countries.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer had this to add, “His words were not “salty” nor were they caused by the fact that he is from Queens. Those are just excuses, peddled by a party that has done nothing but provide cover for the President’s shameful behavior. We all need to call his words what they are: Racist. Disgusting. Un-American. They were expressions of an ugly bigotry that should not be excused or accommodated, but rather called out, and extinguished. Enough is enough.”
On Twitter, Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) took swings at both Paul and Trump.
“I’ll show you some Queens saltiness,” he wrote to Paul. “The only things you know about my beloved Queens is that it’s part of NYC and it has two airports. You are defending the indefensible. [Trump] left here and we certainly don’t want him back.”
A spokeswoman for the Queens County Republican Party also took issue with Paul’s comments.
“After reading the statement, I wonder if Rand Paul has ever been to Queens,” said Joann Ariola, chairwoman of the Queens GOP. “It is a very diverse borough, probably the most, and has people from many different countries. I don’t believe there is a saltiness to Queens residents in regard to statements of other cultures.”
In the days following Trump’s “shithole” comment, a number of African nations have called for the president to apologize, and South Africa issued a diplomatic protest to the United States.
Jon Cronin contributed to this story.