Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
January 09, 2019 10:50 AM

Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib vowed last week that incoming lawmakers were going to impeach President Donald Trump, whom she referred to as a “motherf—–” — a profane announcement that kicked up a swirl of headlines.

Tlaib is sorry for the distraction her comment caused, but she’s standing firm on the words and enthusiasm that she used.

“I’m very passionate about fighting for us, excited, and it got the best of me,” she told TMZ in a story published Wednesday. “But you know, I just want all the women out there to know: Be yourself. Don’t think that you can’t say those things or get this passionate or angry. It’s okay.”

“At the same time, I don’t want this to distract us from the work that we have to do,” Tlaib, 42, continued.

The freshman Detroit representative, a Democrat, issued her call for impeachment at a private event on Thursday following her swearing-in. Cameras there recorded her saying:

“People love you and you win. And when your son looks at you and says: ‘Mama, look, you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t.’ Because we’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker.”

The remark almost immediately went wide, both for the epithet used and the invocation of impeachment. Detractors decried the rudeness of her language, calling it beneath the office of the man she was criticizing.

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Others argued it was impolitic: Impeachment is a goal for some lawmakers, but leading Democrats have said is not a priority as they seek to push back against other parts of the administration and instill oversight from Congress.

Supporters, in turn, highlighted the hypocrisy of such hand-wringing, given Trump’s long (and arguably highly politically successful) history of personal attacks and vulgar language.

In response to Tlaib, Trump termed her criticism “highly disrespectful to the United States of America.”

“I think she dishonored herself and dishonored her family,” he said, according to NBC producer Alex Moe.

 

President Donald Trump
Paul Morigi/Getty

In a column for the Washington Post, Michael Wear chided Tlaib, writing: “Civility does not just reflect a recognition of dignity, it is dignifying. It is the unjust who thrive off incivility. … We might find that, once civility is discarded, it is very difficult to reinstitute it.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN he doesn’t “like that kind of language.”

“But more to the point,” Nadler added, “I disagree with what she said [about impeachment]. It is too early to talk about that intelligently. We have to follow the facts.”

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house, has said much the same in regards to possibly moving to impeach Trump.

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“What I’m more interested in is protecting the Mueller investigation, seeing where the facts take us,” she told Elle recently. So I feel serious and strategic about the prospect of impeachment. If we have to do it, we cannot walk away from our responsibilities. But it’s not something that I’m stirring the pot on.”

Speaking with MSNBC on Friday, Pelosi said she would not rebuke Tlaib, even if the profanity wasn’t her preferred turn of phrase.

“I probably have a generational reaction to it. But in any event, I’m not in the censorship business,” she said, continuing: “I don’t establish any language standards for my colleagues, but I don’t think it’s anything worse than what the president has said.”

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While Pelosi said words carry weight, Trump “has to realize that his words weigh a ton, too.”

“And some of the words that he uses have a direct impact on people’s lives,” she said. “My colleague’s comments do not have an impact on people’s lives.”

Tlaib — who is one of the first Palestinian-Americans elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim members — on Tuesday apologized only for the attention she had drawn away from other, more important efforts by the newly Democratic House majority.

“What I can tell you is that I am a person that is authentically me,” she said, according to NBC News. “I’m very passionate about fighting for all of us, and the use of that language, you know, was a teachable moment for me. And I understand I am a member of Congress and I don’t want anything that I do or say distract us. And that’s the only thing I will apologize for, is that it was a distraction.”

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