Michael Cohen‘s testimony before Congress devolved into a heated discussion on race Wednesday after GOP Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina used a “Black woman as a prop” to rebut racism allegations against President Donald Trump.
Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, took issue with the stunt and wasted no time nailing Meadows to the wall over it.
The drama unfolded during the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s afternoon session with Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” who’s now headed to federal prison over a slew of financial crimes he committed while working for the president. Cohen, 52, quickly flipped on his former boss, dubbing Trump “a racist, a conman, and a cheat,” among other things.
Meadows seemed to have anticipated the racism claims against the president and came prepared with own secret weapon: Lynne Patton, an African-American political appointee at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“You made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn’t agree with,” Meadows began, after Cohen lambasted the POTUS and noted several disparaging remarks Trump allegedly made about African-Americans and other minorities.
Patton, 46, who used to work for the Trump Organization, stood silently in the background as Meadows argued that her loyalty to the president was enough to disprove the claims.
“I asked Lynne to come today in her personal capacity to actually shed some light,” Meadows continued. “She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Ala., that there is no way that she would work for an individual who was racist.”
Cohen himself seemed ready for Meadows’ stunt during the exchange, telling the congressman, “Ask Miss Patton how many people who are black executives at the Trump Organization. And the answer is zero.”
As reported by The New York Times, the congressman asked that Patton’s “entire statement be put in the record,” yet she never spoke. She stood there only briefly before exiting the chamber minutes later.
Democrats immediately criticized the cameo and slammed the idea that Patton’s presence or her loyalty to Trump somehow quashed allegations that he is a bigot. Tlaib drilled into Meadows over the issue, calling it “insensitive” and possibly racist to “use a Black woman as a prop” the way he did.
“Just because someone has a person of color, a Black person, working for them doesn’t mean they aren’t racist,” she said. “The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a Black woman, in this chamber, is alone in itself racist.”
A visibly angry Meadows fired back, pointing out that his own “nieces and nephews are people of color.” Committee chair Rep. Elijah Cummings scrambled to clear up the matter, after which Tlaib explained that it wasn’t her intent to call Meadows a racist.
“As a person of color in this committee, that is how I felt at that moment and I wanted to express that,” she said. “I’m saying that in itself it is a racist act.”
Patton has since spoken out against the congresswoman’s comments and accused her of being “more racist.” During a Thursday appearance on “Fox and Friends,” she also rushed to the president’s defense, saying Trump “does not see color, race, creed, religion. What he sees is success and failure.”
“So to me that is what makes people uncomfortable,” Patton continued. “He doesn’t care what people think and he will tell it like it is.”
The HUD regional director also hit back at Tlaib on social media. “Today a race card was played,” she wrote on Instagram this week. “But not by Congressman Mark Meadows. But rather by those on the House Oversight Committee who sadly placed more credence on the word of a self-confessed convicted perjurer, than that of a highly-educated black woman who rose up the ranks of one of the most recognized global real-estate companies in the world, spoke before 25 million people at the Republican National Convention and now successfully oversees the largest HUD program office in the country.”
Patton added that she’s “not a racist, not low-info, not brainwashed” and “not a part of a cult.”
Watch more in the clip below.
Trevor Noah also jumped in the mix to call out Meadows