On Saturday, Donald Trump woke up rage-tweeting about Rep. Elijah Cummings’ district, which includes most of Baltimore, describing the city as “rat and rodent infested.” Although I first thought the remark was a compliment because the Yelp reviews for Mar-a-Lago frequently mention the resort’s large population of free-range mice, I quickly realized that Trump was insulting the city.
Many have called Trump’s tweets racist, while others have defended Trump’s tweets as a simple criticism. It should be easy to dismiss Trump’s critics and back up his assertion that Democrats were “playing the race card.” All one needs to do is simply find all the times he has referred to white places as being “infested.”
So we did it.
Using the Trump Twitter Archive, a project started by Brendan Brown that monitors, compiles and archives Donald Trump’s Twitter handle in real-time, we found eight instances of Donald Trump using the word “infest” or “infested.” The site currently catalogs all of Trump’s tweets but does not have some tweets that were deleted before Jan. 27, 2017, because, prior to that date, the site only collected his tweets a few times a day.
The dictionary defines “infest” as:
- to live in or overrun to an unwanted degree or in a troublesome manner, especially as predatory animals or vermin do;
- to be numerous in, as anything undesirable or troublesome
The word first showed up in Trump’s very limited Twitter vocabulary in 2014, when the first president to be publicly called a “dotard” by a head of state called former President Barack Obama “stupid” for sending engineers and healthcare workers to Liberia to fight an Ebola outbreak.
Trump chilled on the infest talk for three years, until he decided to slam Rep. John Lewis’ district in Georgia after the civil rights hero said: “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” a fact that was later confirmed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia’s 5th Congressional District is 58 percent black.
In April 2018, the president aimed his ire at California Gov. Jerry Brown’s support for the state’s sanctuary cities, calling attention to what Trump called the “breeding concept.”
Two months later, Trump explained how Democratic policies allowed “illegal immigrants” to “infest” the country and spread crime.
According to multiple sources, including one called “math,” crime rates are lower among immigrant groups than they are among native-born Americans. Still, Trump repeated the unfounded claim two weeks later when he argued that MS-13, the gang that was founded in the U.S., was crossing the border to attack the good, white people of America.
Perhaps tired of high-pitched white supremacist dog whistles, Trump decided to forgo the subtleties of genteel white nationalism and trumpet his racist rhetoric in an attack on four Democratic congresswomen earlier in July, suggesting that they should go back to the “crime-infested places” they came from.
To be fair, there is one incident of Trump referring to a majority-white place as “crime-infested.” In January 2017, Trump called New Hampshire “a drug-infested den.” Even though he did it on the phone, according to the Washington Post’s transcript of the call, the fact that New Hampshire is 91 percent white proves that the president is not racist. As a matter of fact, you can read the entire quote:
And we have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country. They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York. Up in New Hampshire – I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den – is coming from the southern border. So we have a lot of problems with Mexico farther than the economic problem. We are becoming a drug-addicted nation and most the drugs are coming from Mexico or certainly from the southern border. But I will say this—you have that problem too. You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with, and we are willing to help you with that big-league. — Donald Trump to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto