The brief cameo Wednesday of a Black female Trump administration official during Michael Cohen’s nationally televised testimony erupted into a firestorm of criticism over race.
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) said Thursday that she and other members of the House Oversight Committee were shocked when Rebublican Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.) presented Lynne Patton as evidence that President Donald Trump is not racist.
“I think all of us, I mean, even folks at home kind of gasped when that actually happened,” Tlaib said Thursday morning on CNN, according to Politico. “I think if we want to talk about race in this country, that was not the way do it.”
During nationally televised testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, lobbed a multitude of allegations against the president, saying Trump regularly denigrated Black people.
Cohen is scheduled to begin a prison sentence in May for a series of crimes, including lying to Congress.
Meadows introduced Patton, a former planner for the Trump Organization and a staff member with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to rebut allegations of Trump’s racism. The congressman asked Patton to stand before the committee but spoke on her behalf—a move that was criticized as tokenizing and ineffective in disproving the racism charges.
“Lynne Patton says she would not work for a man who is racist,” Meadows said to Cohen. “She disagrees with you.”
Cohen replied, “Neither should I as the son of a Holocaust survivor.” Later, he pointedly noted that the Trump Organization employs no Black executives.
Tlaib responded, "The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a Black woman, in this chamber, in this committee, is alone racist in itself."
Meadows, chairman of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, fired back, demanding that Tlaib’s comments be stricken from the record. Later, Tlaib clarified that she called the act racist, but not Meadows himself. The conservative from North Carolina touted a record of combating racism and said he has nephews and nieces who are people of color.
Asked if she thinks Meadows is a racist, Tlaib responded: “Look, I feel like the act was, and that's up to the American people to decide whether or not he is.”