US President Donald Trump took aim at progressive Democratic congresswomen on Sunday, telling them to "go back" where they came from in remarks that sparked yet another firestorm of protest over his views on race and immigration.
Trump - who was branded a "racist" and a xenophobe by senior Democrats over his latest remarks - last year reportedly referred to countries in Africa as "shithole" nations, and has spoken of "an invasion" of undocumented migrants.
Trump referred to "'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen" in remarks that appeared to be aimed at a group of outspoken relatively young, liberal women of colour, all first-time members of the House of Representatives.
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These include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Trump did not identify the targets of his comments by name, but tweeted that they "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world".
'Totally broken and crime infested places'
He accused the women of "viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run".
"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done," Trump wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez, who was born in New York, has ancestry from Puerto Rico, a US territory, while Tlaib, who was born in Detroit, is the first American of Palestinian descent elected to Congress.
Omar, who fled war-torn Somalia as a child and came to the US as a refugee, is the first black Muslim woman in Congress, and Pressley, who was born in Cincinnati, is the first African American elected to Congress from Massachusetts.
The four hit back at Trump on his favoured social media site.
"I am fighting corruption in OUR country. I do it every day when I hold your admin accountable as a US Congresswoman," Tlaib tweeted.
"THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like," Pressley wrote over a screenshot of Trump's tweets, while Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Trump is "angry because you can't conceive of an America that includes us".
"You are stoking white nationalism bc you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda," Omar wrote, saying that as "Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States".
The four were joined in their criticism of Trump by top Democrats in the House of Representatives.
"That's a racist tweet," Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, the highest-ranking Latino member of Congress, said on "Fox News Sunday."
"These are American citizens, elected by voters in the United States of America."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned her party to avoid the "menace" of liberal policies pushed by Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives if Democrats hope to beat Trump in the 2020 election.
But on Sunday, she criticised Trump's "attack".
"I reject @realDonaldTrump's xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation," she tweeted.
Pelosi added that Trump's comments reaffirmed: "His plan to 'Make America Great Again' has always been about making America white again."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Muslim civil rights group, condemned Trump's comments.
"It is sad to see the occupant of the Oval Office transition from empowering and encouraging racist taunts to actually using them himself," said the group's national executive director, Nihad Awad.
"If Trump shouted the same thing at a Muslim woman wearing hijab in a Walmart, he might be arrested."
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