ImmigrationNews

Lamborn primary challenger Bill Rhea calls on Trump to resign over vulgar immigration remarks

Author: Ernest Luning - January 17, 2018 - Updated: February 15, 2018

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Retired Texas state district judge Bill Rhea, left, pictured with family, is one of three Republicans challenging U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in a primary for the 5th Congressional District seat Lamborn has held for six terms. (Courtesy photo)Retired Texas state district judge Bill Rhea, left, pictured with family, is one of three Republicans challenging U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in a primary for the 5th Congressional District seat Lamborn has held for six terms. (Courtesy photo)

Bill Rhea, one of three Republicans challenging six-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in a primary, on Tuesday called on President Donald Trump to resign in the wake of an ongoing furor ignited by Trump’s use of the term “shithole” to describe African countries during an Oval Office discussion about U.S. immigration policy.

“I am absolutely horrified at those remarks — not that they’re all that surprising, given the president’s history,” Rhea told Colorado Politics. “I believe it’s incumbent upon every rational, thinking, moral person to be outraged and express outrage at those remarks. For me, it’s to the point that Donald Trump needs to resign. I think we’ve swept under the rug for too long all of the offensive, racist, outrageous comments and conduct that has been associated with this president.”

During a conversation Thursday with lawmakers and other officials about a bipartisan immigration deal he ultimately rejected, Trump reportedly used the term “shithole” — although some Republicans have disputed whether the president might have instead said “shithouse” — to question why the United States should accept more immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and African countries, rather than countries like Norway.

Trump on Sunday said he was not a racist and denied the accuracy of initial accounts of the conversation about immigration policy. “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed,” he told reporters. “That I can tell you.” Trump also blamed Democrats for derailing negotiations over extending protection for immigrants brought to the United States as children — known as DACA recipients — and said he hoped the impasse wouldn’t lead to a government shutdown later this week.

Rhea, a retired Texas judge and self-described “distinctly centrist Republican,” said he believed Trump’s “latest outburst” had escalated a history of offensive and divisive comments.

“Our influential role among the nations of the world is being eroded by this and his other reckless, and at times dangerous, statements. Out of his own mouth has come ample evidence of his lack of fitness for office,” Rhea said in a statement.

Rhea added that his own family was “deeply affected” by the remarks, noting that he and his Japanese-American wife, Akemi, have raised 15 children, and nine were adopted — including African-American, Hispanic and Asian children, three from what Rhea termed a third-world country.

“Any Republican candidate or elected official who does not condemn this outrageous statement is complicit in it by his or her silence,” Rhea said. “We stoop to new lows by failing to value how immigrants have contributed to our great history, served in the military and worked in important professions.”

A spokesman for Lamborn didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment about Trump’s remarks, and another of his primary opponents, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, declined to weigh in.

But the fourth Republican running in the 5th Congressional District, state Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, told Colorado Politics he intended to focus on “real issues” like funding the border wall and not “descend to this tabloid-style silliness.”

“There are so many important things we should be talking about from protests in Iran, the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Afghanistan, and real details to funding the border wall and enforcing our laws,” Hill said.

“We shouldn’t descend to this tabloid-style silliness. I’m going to focus on the real issues instead. Rather than salacious headlines, let’s focus on actual results like record breaking stock market performance, or the recent passage of tax reform and relief for millions of Americans.”

Asked what he thought about the policy discussion surrounding the vulgarity, Hill said the president’s statements “in no way dictate or translate into actual policy.” He added, “It is imperative we keep the focus on those actual important policy matters, and fight the fight there — not in media hype or ‘PC’ versus ‘not PC’ statements that only end up serving as distractions.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.