Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) railed into Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen after she insisted before a panel of senators that she did not hear President Donald Trump refer to African nations as “shitholes” or asking why the U.S. needs more Haitian residents when it could have more from Norway even though she was in the room at the time.
“When ignorance and bigotry is allied with power, it is a dangerous force in our country,” Booker told Nielsen during a Department of Homeland Security oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He went on:
“Your silence and your amnesia is complicity."
Nor would Booker accept Nielsen's claim that she may not have heard the president's remarks because senators were talking over each other, thus making it hard to hear.
“I’ve got a president of the United States whose office I respect, who talks about the country’s origins of my fellow citizens in the most despicable manner. You don’t remember? You can’t remember the words of your commander in chief?” asked Booker. “I find that unacceptable.”
He continued: “Why am I, frankly, seething with anger? … You’re under oath. You and others in that room suddenly cannot remember? The idea that the commander in chief of this country can, with broad brushes, talk about certain nations and thus cast a shadow over the millions of Americans who are from those communities, and that you could even say in your testimony that Norwegians were preferences because they are so hard-working.”
The exchange quickly went viral, with members of the media and the public alike sharing their observations about the hearing.
Holly Figueroa O'Reilly, a co-organizer for last summer's March for Truth, the nationwide protest calling for a fair and impartial investigation into the Trump administration's ties to Russia, noted that Nielson appeared to roll her eyes exasperatedly during questioning.
Kirstjen Nielson rolling her eyes at Cory Booker is all you really need to know about what the White House thinks o… https://t.co/CIJK1i32yz— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@Holly Figueroa O'Reilly)1516128690.0
"By saying 'I don't recall' they are confirming that he [Trump] said it," wrote one Regan Ferguson, a food inspector from Illinois.
He notes that if Trump "didn't say it, they would be all over the right wing propoganda machine yelling at the top of thier lungs that it was not true. They won't do that because they are afraid there just may be a recording of that meeting somewhere."
Others, like Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich, took umbrage with Booker's deportment. (Indeed, many of Booker's detractors have said his "performance" is an indicator that he should attend anger management courses.)
So it’s okay for a man to speak to a woman like this now? This isn’t bullying or sexist? Nielsen can handle it, and… https://t.co/OmONclZk0r— Katie Pavlich (@Katie Pavlich)1516134895.0
Pavlich's response soon attracted of actress Alyssa Milano, one of the Trump administration's most vociferous critics.
Enough. Stop perpetuating the myth that women in power should be treated differently, fragilely. Nielsen can -- and… https://t.co/lK22uABlvu— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa Milano)1516139866.0
The White House has issued no denials, and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have continued to assert that Trump did, in fact, utter the word "shithole" and disparage Haiti and African nations.
"Let me say they're wrong. I can tell you explicitly they are wrong," Durbin said during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. "And let me also say, is that their defense, that S-House is acceptable, S-Hole he would never say? Come on. To think that the President of the United States would refer to any country on Earth as an S-House country, for goodness' sakes, what does that say?"