NASHVILLE — Tennessee Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn on Tuesday took issue with President Donald Trump's use of the word "lynching" as he denounced U.S. House Democrats' ongoing impeachment inquiry.
"I understand the president's strong feelings, but that's a completely inappropriate choice of words if you stop and think about what has happened in American history," Alexander said in a statement.
Asked about Trump's use of the word, Blackburn, a staunch Trump ally, told state-based reporters in a teleconference call that "it's not a terminology that I would have used."
Blackburn repeated her prior statement when asked to elaborate.
In his tweet, the embattled president denounced the House probe into his dealings with Ukraine, warning if a Democrat became president while Republicans control the house "they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!"
The tweet drew bipartisan unease and outright criticism as the president sought to link lynchings, which in the U.S. largely involved the hanging of black men by white mobs, to the act of impeachment, a political process outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, often a staunch defender of the president, told Washington reporters "that was an unfortunate choice of words," adding, "given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching," The Associated Press reported.
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, sharply criticized Trump in his own tweet, calling lynching "a form of racial terrorism. Your use of the word is offensive to the memory of the many African American victims & shows a lack of historical understanding."
He called on Trump to delete his tweet and "take the time to learn why your words are so harmful."
But U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, defended Trump's use of the term, telling reporters that House Democrats' impeachment process "is a lynching in every sense. This is un-American."
He said both blacks and whites have been lynched in the past.
Others pointed to Democrats lobbing the same term at then-majority House Republicans during the 1998 impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.