Debbie Dingell Calls for Civility After Trump Insults Her Late Husband


WASHINGTON — One day after the House impeached President Trump largely along party lines, Republicans and Democrats found themselves in agreement on something: the president’s swipe at a beloved late Democratic congressman was neither funny nor appropriate.

Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, said Thursday that Mr. Trump’s “personal shot” at her late husband, former Representative John D. Dingell Jr., exemplified the bitter partisanship in the country. She called for civility as she faced her first Christmas in 38 years without her husband.

The president’s comments, suggesting that Mr. Dingell went to hell after he died, came during a rally in Western Michigan on Wednesday, as Democrats in Washington voted to impeach him.

Mr. Dingell died earlier this year. He announced his retirement from Congress in 2014 after serving his district, just outside of Detroit, for 59 years. Ms. Dingell was elected to his seat.

The president’s decision to go after the Dingells, a long-respected political family in Michigan — a key state in the upcoming presidential election — struck a familiar tone. Mr. Trump repeatedly attacked Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, for months after his death in 2018.

The president’s bit did not go over well at the rally where the crowd was heard booing after his swipe at Mr. Dingell.

After complaining about the hypocrisy he faces in Washington, Mr. Trump described the respect he displayed for Mr. Dingell after he died, offering accounts of reverent gestures he made that in some cases, according to Ms. Dingell, were inaccurate.

Mr. Trump said Ms. Dingell called him and thanked him profusely for steps he took to honor her husband and recalled that she said her husband would be thrilled as he looked down and saw how the country was honoring him.

“Maybe he’s looking up,” Mr. Trump said during the rally. “I don’t know. I don’t know, maybe. Maybe. But let’s assume he’s looking down.”

In an opinion piece published Tuesday, Ms. Dingell explained why she planned to vote to impeach Mr. Trump.

“If we don’t address this abuse of power, we abdicate our constitutional and moral responsibility,” she wrote. “Failing to address it would also condone these actions as acceptable for future administrations.”

The president’s two-hour speech began as Ms. Dingell and most other Democrats were voting to impeach Mr. Trump. Ms. Dingell’s vote appeared to surprise the president, who described how grateful she was for the tributes he had paid to Mr. Dingell.

Ms. Dingell responded on Twitter on Wednesday and asked the president to “set politics aside.”

“I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love,” she wrote. “You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that there was nothing funny about what Mr. Trump said.

“What the president misunderstands is that cruelty is not wit,” she said. “It’s not funny at all, it’s very sad.”

Two Republican representatives from Michigan called on Mr. Trump to apologize for what he said about Mr. Dingell.

“To use his name in such a dishonorable manner at last night’s rally is unacceptable from anyone, let alone the president of the United States. An apology is due, Mr. President,” Representative Paul Mitchell said on Thursday.

His colleague, Representative Fred Upton, said, “There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a staunch Trump defender most of the time, said he had not seen the president’s comments but, “If he said that, I think he should apologize.”

Asked about the remarks, a White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, said Thursday that Mr. Trump respected Mr. Dingell’s military service and decades in Congress, and it was because of his respect that the president lowered the flags after he died.

“He appreciates her and him,” Mr. Gidley said on Fox Business. “And you know, your heart goes out to her for her loss. There’s no question about that.”

The president is a “counterpuncher,” he added, and then conceded that Ms. Dingell had not thrown a punch his way.

On Thursday, Ms. Dingell said the country should take a lesson from the president’s comments. “We need more civility in this country,” she said on CNN. And in an interview with Fox Business, she recognized the gravity of the vote to impeach the president for just the third time in the country’s history.

“Yesterday was a very difficult day for this democracy,” she said. “And I think we know that.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.


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