Newspaper unleashes stunning insult on Trump
Donald Trump's attack on Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings has sparked outrage across the United States.
Media outlets, high-profile Democrats, residents of Baltimore - the city at the centre of his criticism - and Mr Cummings himself hit back at the President, who was decried as racist after he criticised the Democratic congressman and described the city as a "rat and rodent-infested" place where "no human being would want to live".
But the incident has also sparked a debate over whether Mr Trump had a point in raising concerns about Baltimore.
HOW DID THIS ALL START?
Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings has launched a number of investigations into the Trump administration, and was one of the main critics of its treatment of undocumented immigrants in detention centres at the US-Mexico border.
On July 18, Mr Cummings grilled acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and accused the department of having an "empathy deficit" during a dramatic congressional hearing. He took exception to Mr McAleenan's claim the department was doing its "level best".
"What does that mean? What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own faeces, can't take a shower? Come on, man. What's that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings," Mr Cummings said.
This comment appeared to inspire Mr Trump's attack on the Democrat, whose district in Maryland includes parts of Baltimore.
The President labelled his district, of which the majority of residents are black, a "disgusting, rat-and-rodent-infested mess".
....As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2019
HOW THE WORLD REACTED
Mr Trump's criticisms of Baltimore and Mr Cummings were swiftly slammed as racist.
The editorial board of the Baltimore Sun launched a blistering attack on him. In an editorial entitled 'Better To Have Rats Than To Be One', the newspaper said it "would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner", but then likened Mr Trump to "vermin", saying: "Better to have some vermin living in your neighbourhood than to be one."
"Mr Trump sees attacking African-American members of Congress as good politics, as it both warms the cockles of the white supremacists who love him and causes so many of the thoughtful people who don't to scream," the widely-shared editorial said.
"We would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women's private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are 'good people' among murderous neo-Nazis that he's still not fooling most Americans into believing he's even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity."
CNN news anchor Victor Blackwell teared up reacting to Mr Trump's post, in a widely-shared video that drew on his own personal experience growing up in Baltimore.
"The President says about congressman Cummings' district that no human would want to live there," he said. "You know who did, Mr President? I did. From the day I was brought home from the hospital to the day I left for college. And a lot of people I care about still do.
"There are challenges no doubt. But people are proud of their community. I don't want to sound self-righteous, but people get up and go to work there, they care for their families there, they love their children who pledge allegiance to the flag just like children do in districts of congressmen who support you, sir. They are Americans too."
High-profile Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California senator Kamala Harris and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren came out to defend Mr Cummings and denounce Mr Trump as a racist.
Ms Pelosi, who was born in Baltimore, defended Mr Cummings as a "champion in the Congress" and "beloved leader in Baltimore".
.@RepCummings is a champion in the Congress and the country for civil rights and economic justice, a beloved leader in Baltimore, and deeply valued colleague. We all reject racist attacks against him and support his steadfast leadership. #ElijahCummingsIsAPatriot https://t.co/2LG8AuQrHh— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 27, 2019
Ms Harris said it was "disgraceful the President has chosen to start his morning disparaging this great American city".
The city's residents also hit back against the President, with the hashtag #WeAreBaltimore trending shortly after his posts, accompanied by community photos of residents.
#WeAreBaltimore every woman in this picture lives in Baltimore City. Every woman in this picture wakes up & tries to give back. They are social workers, administrators & therapist. We aren’t a caricature or subhuman. pic.twitter.com/8cWbpoLOX8— Tanya ✨🏳️🌈 (@TEE1031) July 27, 2019
WAS TRUMP BEING RACIST - OR JUST 'HONEST'?
While Mr Trump was widely condemned for his post, some commentators have argued his criticisms of Baltimore had merit based on the city's well-documented high crime rate and poverty.
In an opinion piece published in The New York Post, writer Seth Barron notes that Baltimore has the highest crime rate in America, and is second highest for murders.
He notes that Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders - who also recently criticised Mr Trump's remarks - likened Baltimore to a "Third World country" during a tour of the district in 2015.
At the time, Mr Sanders said it's a "disgrace" that "residents of Baltimore's poorest boroughs have lifespans shorter than people living under dictatorship in North Korea".
Barron also pointed to a succession of failed and corrupt leaders. One former mayor stole gift cards meant for poor children. Another struck a $US500,000 deal to sell her self-published "unreadable" children's books to the Maryland hospital system, which she later said was a "regrettable mistake".
These points - combined with the city's high poverty rate - would suggest Mr Trump was merely criticising a struggling city, and that this doesn't warrant racism.
But people in Baltimore don't hide the fact that the city is rife with social problems. Rather, they say Mr Trump's language - saying "no human being would want to live there" - dehumanises its majority-black residents.
In an opinion piece, Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks acknowledged the city's ongoing problems.
"Yeah, Baltimore has had a long spell of violent crime, and we are per capita one of the most violent cities in the country. It has been a miserable fact of life here for a long time, the last four years particularly. And yes, we have rats and we have trash," Rodricks writes.
But his argument is that Mr Trump's language is steeped in racist rhetoric and exploitative, using the city's problems to bolster support among his white working-class base rather than actually help fix its problems.
"But we do not need the President of the United States to rub it all in our faces, especially a President of a political party that has done as little as possible over the last half-century to relieve us of these problems," Rodricks goes on.
He also acknowledged Mr Sanders' visit in 2015, saying that Mr Trump by comparison "wasn't coming from a place of caring".
"It's clear by now that Trump only cares about his #MAGA base of support, the people who ignore his racism and cruelty, or relish it. His attack on Cummings was an attack on a black congressman who represents, in part, a majority African-American city, and a city with a host of problems that, with his tweet, Trump exploited for political gain."
Lastly, he draws on Mr Trump's phrase that "No human being would want to live there", as one of his most "deeply racist".
"It says that the 600,000-plus of us who live here must be subhuman, or in some way defective human beings," argues Rodricks. "That he said this about a struggling city with a majority African-American population caps Trump's persistent and ugly effort to play the race card as a re-election strategy."