BY NATHAN DUKE
Borough leaders blasted President Donald Trump for his recent profane comment regarding certain African nations—and then slammed U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for a defense of the president that insinuated his comments stemmed from his Queens upbringing.
During a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform at the White House, Trump allegedly said that he preferred immigrants coming to the United States from nations such as Norway, as opposed to Haiti, Central America and Africa, calling such places “shithole countries.”
Elected officials—primarily Democrats and U.S. Rep. Mia Love (R-UT)—lambasted Trump’s comments, calling them “racist.”
Queens leaders were further outraged after Paul defended the president during an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press and attributed his remarks to being raised in Queens. Trump was born in Jamaica Estates.
“People are driven here by poverty,” Paul said. “But we can’t have an open border with everyone who wants to come. We have to have rules on our border. We have to be somewhat selective on who comes. So, I think there was a valid argument in there, but you got sort of a Queens saltiness coming out, and then I think people have misinterpreted it that he’s a racist.”
Queens elected officials at the city, state and federal level criticized Paul’s comments.
“Queens is one of the most beautifully diverse places in all of America,” U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks said. “Like the Statue of Liberty, we accept immigrants with open arms, we do not belittle them or their country of origin. The problem isn’t only the president’s undignified language—which couldn’t be less reflective of Queens values—but also his discriminatory policies and racist beliefs.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said that the borough is “home to driven, conscientious and kind people” and that Trump’s comments “do not represent Queens.” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) chimed in that “Donald Trump and the Republican Party are the ones to blame here—Donald Trump for being racist and the GOP for enabling him.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that “there is nothing ‘Queens’ about what he said.”
“The president of the United States’ description of other nation stations and entire continents as ‘shitholes’ is indefensible,” Katz said, adding that Queens is a diverse borough that has more than 130 languages from 120 countries.
Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) said that Trump’s comments were this antithesis of the United States’ image.
“Trump’s recent comments and history of racist remarks cannot and should not be diminished,” she said. “To be ‘somewhat selective’ on who enters this country is un-American. We should appreciate the contributions that all immigrants offer to our great nation. My America is for everyone.”
On Twitter, Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) took swings at both Paul and Trump.
“I’ll show you some Queens saltiness,” he wrote to Paul. “The only things you know about my beloved Queens is that it’s part of NYC and it has two airports. You are defending the indefensible. [Trump] left here and we certainly don’t want him back.”
A spokeswoman for the Queens County Republican Party also took issue with Paul’s comments.
“After reading the statement, I wonder if Rand Paul has ever been to Queens,” said Joann Ariola, chairwoman of the Queens GOP. “It is a very diverse borough, probably the most, and has people from many different countries. I don’t believe there is a saltiness to Queens residents in regards to statements of other cultures.”
Jon Cronin contributed to this story.