President Donald Trump is "absolutely not" a racist, Kentucky's strongly pro-Trump governor said Wednesday while sidestepping questions about the president's tweet declaring that four congresswomen of color should go back to the countries from which they came.
Gov. Matt Bevin drew media questions about the explosive tweet after appearing at a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum with his Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear. Bevin routinely plays up his alliance with Trump, making it a big part of his reelection campaign.
Trump's weekend tweet said the four congressmen should back to the "broken and crime infested" countries they came from, ignoring the fact that all of the women are American citizens and three were born in the U.S.
Asked if the social media remark was racist, Bevin replied: "I will let the president speak for his own tweets. I will speak for any tweet that I put out. Do I think the president is racist? Absolutely not. I know him personally."
Trump's attack has drawn a scorching condemnation from Democrats who labeled the remarks racist and divisive.
Beshear told reporters Wednesday that the president's remarks "were wrong and ugly and he should have never tweeted them."
"I don't think anybody should ever be told to go back to another country," said Beshear, the state's attorney general. "Those are U.S. citizens. They ought to be treated with respect."
Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide when winning the White House in 2016 and he continues to overshadow the state's political landscape.
Bevin and his allies are hoping that Trump's influence will be pivotal as the Republican faces a tough challenge from Beshear, the son of the state's last Democratic governor, in this year's November election. Bevin and Trump share similarities — the two businessmen are unconventional conservative politicians who favor social media over traditional media and attack critics fiercely
Bevin has said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have signaled their intention to appear with him to support his campaign.
Trump recorded a primary election-eve phone message for Bevin that went out to Republican voters statewide and then tweeted support for the governor. But Bevin still struggled in the state's May primary election, with nearly half of GOP voters choosing other candidates.
Bevin played up his ties to Trump during his joint appearance with Beshear before the Farm Bureau, the state's most influential farm group.
Later, Beshear tried to turn the tables on Bevin and his relationship with the president.
"If he's got a relationship with this president, why hasn't he used it to address tariffs that are harming our soybean farmers, tariffs that are harming our bourbon makers?" he told reporters. "If you're a good friend with the president, it ought to be used in a way that helps Kentucky."