Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican up for reelection in November, on Sunday sought to distance herself from President Donald Trump’s fiery rhetoric over the weekend regarding nationwide protests and the removal of symbols associated with America’s racist past.
The senator’s remarks came after the president warned supporters in a speech Friday at Mount Rushmore of a brewing “left-wing cultural revolution” and “angry mobs” he alleged are “trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.” Trump echoed that divisive message Saturday in a White House address ostensibly intended to celebrate July 4, assailing those protesting against racial injustice and police brutality as “anarchist agitators” who “have absolutely no clue what they are doing.”
Asked Sunday on CNN‘s “State of the Union” if she was comfortable with the president’s language in recent days given that she will be on the ballot with him in less than four months, Ernst argued there exists a “great level of frustration across the United States all the way around.”
But the senator also acknowledged that “we do have blemishes in our history and we need to come together and have some very hard discussions about our past.” She added: “The great thing about this nation is that we can learn from those blemishes, learn from those hard times in the past, and continue to evolve as a continually blessed nation.”
Pressed by host Dana Bash on whether she agreed the majority of the protests “are actually peaceful and not the way the president described them,” Ernst again seemingly broke with Trump. “Yes, I do think that there are so many peaceful protests, and that’s exactly the kind of discussion and exhibition that we want to see,” she said.
While Ernst warned that incidents of violence and the destruction of private and public property cannot be tolerated, she insisted that if Americans “want to improve our country, we all need to come together.”
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