As politicians from both parties weighed in on reports that President Donald Trump referred to countries such as Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole” countries, two key Ohio Republicans responded in wildly different ways.
Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, who dropped out of the GOP gubernatorial primary Thursday in order to run for the U.S. Senate, appeared on Fox & Friends, where he defended the man he desperately needs for his fledgling U.S. Senate campaign.
"I've said all along the president many times says what people are thinking," Renacci told Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade.
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It’s a line the Wadsworth Republican has used repeatedly when asked about Trump, but it’s the first time Renacci has applied it to a statement widely condemned as overtly racist.
“I learned as a business guy you have to be careful what you say because people pick everything up,” Renacci said. “Believe me, when I have a mic on I have got to watch what I say. That is a business guy going into a political career.”
Trump’s comments, made in an Oval Office meeting Thursday with lawmakers during a discussion about immigration, were confirmed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Friday morning.
“I disagree with Congressman Renacci’s characterization that President Trump’s disgusting and hateful comments about immigrants were speaking for what many Americans are thinking," said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. "The President certainly isn’t speaking for me and he isn’t speaking for a great majority of people across Ohio.”
Renacci and Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons are running for the Republican nomination to challenge Brown in the November General Election.
Renacci, appearing on Fox, said America shouldn’t be judging the president by what he is saying now, adding that he “absolutely” wants Trump by his side as he seeks the GOP Senate nomination.
“I always say judge the president after four years. Let’s judge the president after what we’ve done — let’s not judge the president on what he says,” Renacci said.
‘I just don’t agree with the way it was said’
In an interview with the Dayton Daily News on Friday Renacci said he would not have made the same comment as Trump but that Trump’s comments do often reflect what some American people think.
“I just don’t agree with the way it was said. I don’t agree with the way it was presented,” Renacci said.
He said a businessman involved in politics may not always understand the need to use caution in wording statements.
“And again, when you’re trying to get some things accomplished I think sometimes you’ve got to watch how you say things and why you say things and I just would not have said it. It’s just not my style of negotiating,” Renacci said.
“But again, President Trump is a different type of person and he says things different than I would. I just would not have said it that way.”
Gov. Kasich weighs in
Appearing on MSNBC hours later, Ohio Gov. John Kasich called Trump’s comments “not helpful” and “terrible.”
“When you talk about Africa, for example, this is a place that is ripe for both growth and problems,” Kasich said, saying he has worked on debt relief in Africa. “If you don’t have economic growth you become ripe for terrorism.”
“We don’t want to demean people and the bottom line is we’re all made in the image of the Lord and we don’t want to say disparaging things.”
Kasich, speaking on MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson about a New York Times editorial on immigration he authored with Jeb Bush Jr., largely refused to comment on Renacci’s remarks that Trump often says what others are thinking and that Trump should be judged after four years in office.
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“I’m not getting into the Senate race,” Kasich said, later adding, “I don’t agree with him… I don’t think you wait four years. I’ve been supportive of the president when I think he’s been right and I’ve been opposed to him when I think he hasn’t been right.”
Asked if he believed Trump was a racist, Kasich also demurred.
“I don’t call names,” he said, adding that Trump’s comments were inappropriate.
Renacci entered the Senate race after Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel abruptly left it for family reasons in part because he said he was urged to run by Trump aides. If he wins the GOP nomination, he will face Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in November.
He tweeted Thursday: “When President @realDonaldTrump asks you to run — you do it.”