President Donald Trump lashed out at MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in a series of tweets posted to his personal Twitter account early Thursday. But for many, the president's accusations Brzezinski was "crazy" with a "low I.Q." and "bleeding badly from a face-lift" went too far. By Thursday afternoon, a handful of Republicans lawmakers had issued sharp rebukes of Trump's tweets, claiming his comments were out of line and potentially dangerous.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Nebraska Sen. Benn Sasse were among the first Republicans in Congress to speak out against Trump's attack on Brzezinski.
"Obviously I don't see that as an appropriate comment," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday at a press conference. "What we're trying to do around here is improve the tone and civility of the debate and this obviously doesn't help do that."
Other Republican legislators accused Trump of exhibiting behavior they described as being beneath the dignity of the office of president. "Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America," Graham chided Trump in a tweet.
"Please just stop," Sen. Sasse urged Trump in a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account. "This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office."
Additional members of the Republican Party also pushed back on the president's tweets Thursday. "This has to stop," Maine Sen. Susan Collins tweeted. "We all have a job – 3 branches of gov't and media. We don't have to get along, but we must show respect and civility."
While criticizing Trump, Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins claimed the president's remarks about Brzezinski's mental health and physical appearance were demeaning and diminishing to women as a whole. "This is not okay," Jenkins wrote in a tweet. "As a female in politics I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women."
At least two Republican legislators cited the recent shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise in comments highlighting the danger of allowing vitriol such as that found in Trump's attack on Brzezinski to become a normal part of political rhetoric. "Let's all remember the lessons from the Congressional shooting just a couple weeks ago," Rep. Carlos Curbelo said in a series of tweets. "We must treat one another with decency and respect. Personal attacks and character assassination yield a culture of social and political violence in which people can become radicalized and dangerous."
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, who recently chaired a hearing on safety with Capitol Police following the attack on Scalise, echoed a similar sentiment in a statement released via Twitter:
National and local leaders, including our president, should model civility, honor, and respect in our political rhetoric. The president's tweets today don't help our political or national discourse and do not provide a role model for our national dialogue.
But while Republican members of Congress have been quick to reprimand Trump for his tweets, both the White House and First Lady Melania Trump have defended the president.
"I don't think the president's ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn't push back," Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News, alleging Trump has been the target of "an outrageous number of personal attacks" on Morning Joe. "This is a president who fights fire with fire."
A spokesperson for the first lady, who had previously voiced an interest in launching a campaign to combat cyberbullying, claimed Melania stood by her husband's tweets. "As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," the first lady's communications director Stephanie Grisham said, according to CNN.
Trump's personal attack on Brzezinski isn't the first time the president has used his Twitter account to hurl insults at critics, the media, or other public figures, sparking accusations that the president is a cyberbully.