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Mitch McConnell says Trump is "not a racist"

Trump continues to defend racist tweet
Trump defends tweet, says congresswomen have said "horrible" things 01:12

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that President Trump is "not a racist," after the president stirred controversy this week by targeting four progressive congresswomen with a racist tweet.

"I think that there's been a consensus that political rhetoric has really gotten way way over heated all across the political spectrum," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "From the president, to the speaker, to members of the House, all of us have a responsibility to elevate the public discourse. Our words do matter. We all know that politics is a contact sport, but it's about time that we lowered the temperature all across the board."

He also did not say whether he believed the president would tone down his rhetoric if Republicans spoke out more forcefully against Mr. Trump.

"I think everybody ought to tone down their rhetoric. We have examples of that across the ideological spectrum in the country," McConnell said, replying to a question from CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. "The president is not a racist, and I think that the tone of all of this is not good for the country. But it's coming from all different ideological points of view, that's the point -- to single out any segment of this I think is a mistake."

The president sparked a firestorm over the weekend with a series of tweets seemingly targeting freshmen Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar. He wrote that the congresswomen -- three of whom were born in the U.S., and all American citizens -- should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

McConnell was asked whether he considered the tweets racist given that his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, migrated from Taiwan. The Senate majority leader declined to say yes or no, just saying that he was "a fan of legal immigration."

The House is voting on a resolution to formally condemn Mr. Trump's tweets Tuesday evening.

Kathryn Watson contributed to this report

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