Leaders line up to denounce Trump’s comment that late Rep. Dingell is in hell

U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton | Andrew Roth

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) was with his longtime friend and colleague, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), on Wednesday night when she got word that President Donald Trump had suggested during a campaign rally in Battle Creek that her husband was in hell. 

Upton and Dingell both serve on the bipartisan U.S. House Problem Solvers Caucus, which held a dinner following the House votes to impeach the president. 

“She left very distraught,” Upton said Thursday in a brief interview with the Advance on Capitol Hill. When he got home after the event, Upton wrote on Twitter that Trump ought to apologize for his remarks. 

Trump appears to declare John Dingell is in hell during rant at Battle Creek rally

“I don’t know,” Upton said when asked whether an apology from the White House was likely. “I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Dingell appeared on MSNBC Thursday to discuss Trump’s comments, which included sneering that she was a “real beauty” for calling him after her husband’s death in February. 

“I don’t know why he decided to do what he did last night, but to say it didn’t hurt wouldn’t be the truth,” Dingell said.

“We had a love affair most never have,” she added. “And it’s been a hard holiday season, and those kinds of shots — people forget that members of Congress are human, and we go through real hard times.”

Upton said he “talked to her twice this morning.” Meanwhile, Upton said, “I think we’re getting more calls and comments on this than we did on impeachment in the last couple days.”

Battle Creek’s GOP former congressman calls Trump’s Dingell attacks ‘disgusting’

Twitter was ablaze Wednesday night with the U.S. House vote to impeach Trump, the president’s two-hour-long speech at a Battle Creek rally and his offensive insinuation that John Dingell is in hell. 

While people may be split on the impeachment vote or his “Merry Christmas” rally, the support for Debbie Dingell seems to be a bipartisan one. 

Dingell tweeted that the president’s comment made her “healing much harder,” especially during the holiday season. 

“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just make my healing much harder,” she tweeted Wednesday night.

Vice President Joe Biden, who’s running for president, spoke at John Dingell’s funeral in Michigan. A longtime family friend, he called Trump’s remarks “cruel and pathetic.”

Two Michigan Republicans, Upton and U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden), both took to Twitter to denounce Trump’s comment and demand apologies. 

I’ve always looked up to John Dingell – my good friend and a great Michigan legend. There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due,” Upton tweeted.

Mitchell tweeted that “John Dingell was a well-respected man & I consider Debbie a close colleague and friend. 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 @realDonaldTrump.”

All six of Dingell’s Democratic colleagues from Michigan, and the state’s only independent representative, Justin Amash (I-Cascade Twp.) also took to Twitter to defend the family and show support. 

Amash tweeted to Dingell, “Debbie, we are here for you. So many people loved and respected John. Praying for you and your family.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) said Trump’s remarks were “despicable,” and U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) called it a “cheap shot.”

“This is shameful, Mr. President. Insinuating that John Dingell, a loving catholic, WWII hero, now rests in hell. How dare you? I have no words for the pain you are causing my dear friend Debbie Dingell and the people of Michigan right now,” Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester) tweeted.

State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) was at the Battle Creek rally and appeared briefly on stage with Trump. In a statement, he called Trump’s line “inappropriate,” but stopped short of calling for an apology. 

“The joke was inappropriate. John Dingell was a dedicated public servant who loved this state and provided this country with an incredible lifetime of service,” Chatfield said. 

Previously, Trump has criticized the late U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and bemoaned that the McCain family never properly thanked him for McCain’s funeral service, much like he did with Dingell. 

Both McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, and his daughter, Meghan McCain, tweeted in defense of John Dingell. 

Meghan McCain said Trump’s comments were “utterly sick and cruel.” 

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, however, chalked it all up to adrenaline from the rally. 

“He was at a political rally,” she said on Good Morning America Thursday. “He has been under attack and under impeachment attack for the last few months and then just under attack politically for the last two-and-a-half years. I think as we all know, the president is a counter-puncher. It was a very, very supportive and wild crowd and he was just riffing on some of the things that have happened the past few days.”

Allison Donahue
Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.
Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.