A heated clash derailed an already blockbuster congressional hearing on Wednesday after Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib appeared to accuse Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of what she called a “racist” act of using a black woman as a “prop” as a way to disprove allegations of racism against the President.
“Just because someone has a person of color, a black person, working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” the Democratic congresswoman from Michigan said during a House Oversight Committee hearing featuring testimony from President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
Tlaib continued, “And it is insensitive … the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself.”
Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, had earlier invited Lynne Patton, a Trump administration official who is also a black woman, to the hearing and presented her as a refutation of Cohen’s claim that Trump is a “racist.” Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and fixer, was testifying in front of the House Oversight Committee.
Following Tlaib’s comment, Meadows immediately called for her words to be stricken from the record. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who is the chairman of the committee, stepped in and asked Tlaib if she wanted to “rephrase” her statement.
Tlaib repeated her initial statement, reading from her notes, and clarified she was not calling Meadows himself a racist, just the act itself.
“As a person of color in this committee that’s how I felt in at that moment and I wanted to express that, but I am not calling the gentleman, Mr. Meadows, a racist for doing so, I’m saying that in itself it is a racist act,” Tlaib said, referring to what she called using Patton, a black woman, as a “prop.”
Meadows, growing visibly upset, objected to Tlaib’s characterization. He said his family members are people of color, and further said it was “racist” that Tlaib suggested Meadows brought Patton in for that reason.
“Mr. Chairman, there’s nothing more personal to me than my relationship — my nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that. You know that, Mr. Chairman,” Meadows said.
“And to indicate that I asked someone who is a personal friend of the Trump family, who has worked for him, who knows this particular individual, that she’s coming in to be a prop — it’s racist to suggest that I asked her to come in here for that reason,” Meadows added.
Patton is a longtime associate of the Trump family and is now a high-ranking political appointee to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She worked as an event planner for the Trumps and planned Eric Trump’s 2014 wedding.
“She loves this family, she came in because she felt like the President of the United States was getting falsely accused,” Meadows said. “And Mr. Chairman you are, you and I have a personal relationship that’s not based on color. And to even go down this direction is wrong, Mr. Chairman.”
Cummings thanked Meadows for his statements and said, “if there’s anyone who is sensitive with regard to race, it’s me, son of former sharecroppers that were basically slaves. So I, I get it. I listened very carefully to Ms. Tlaib … I think she said that she was not calling you a racist.”
Cummings added that Meadows,”of all the people on this committee … you’re one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people.”
“I could see and feel your pain,” Cummings added. “I feel it. And so, and I don’t think Ms. Tlaib intended to cause you that, that kind of pain and that kind of frustration.”
Tlaib agreed with Cummings that was not her intention and said “I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like, but I said someone in general, and as everyone knows in this chamber I’m pretty direct so I, if I wanted to say that I would’ve, but that’s not what I said.”