Republican Congressman Tom Cole met with constituents at the University of Oklahoma’s National Weather Center in Norman Monday evening. Following his legislative update, the conversation turned to President Trump.
A few constituents said they’d like Cole to speak out against the president. One woman said Trump is using racism to advance his presidential campaign as 2020 draws near.
“All I can tell you is I’ll be responsible for the rhetoric I use, and I’ll be responsible for the points I make,” Cole said.
Cole also said Republicans don’t have a monopoly on “vile language.”
“I’ve had members of Congress talk about American federal workers running ‘concentration camps.’ I think that’s pretty foul,” Cole said, referring to detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Although an online tracker found that Cole votes in line with Trump over 98 percent of the time, Cole pointed out on Monday that he doesn’t always agree with the president. Cole recently condemned one of Trump’s tweets, in which the president said a group of four non-white congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
“I said it was beneath the dignity of the presidency and it was inappropriate language and offensive,” Cole said.
The concerns raised at Cole’s town hall may not be widespread. Republican support for Trump has risen 2.4 percentage points in Oklahoma since last year, according to a recent SoonerPoll study. Reuters and Ipsos also found that Republicans approved of Trump slightly more after his July tweetstorm.
Still, for Democratic presidential candidates visiting Oklahoma during the August recess, racism is a major talking point. Beto O’Rourke came to Norman on Monday and suggested that racism exacerbates other issues like gun violence, referring to the racially motivated El Paso shooting. According to OU Daily, O’Rourke also met with the University of Oklahoma’s Black Emergency Response Team, which organized the Rally to Stop Racism in March. Sen. Cory Booker is expected to do the same when he visits Tulsa and Norman on Aug. 29.