SWAMPSCOTT — Peter Spellios, chairman of the Select Board, thanked fellow Swampscott resident and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker for speaking out against tweets and comments President Donald Trump directed this week at four progressive members of Congress known as 'The Squad.'
Earlier in the week, Baker had denounced Trump's tweets as "shameful" and " racist," according to various news reports.
"Governor, I want to thank you for some comments that you made earlier this week calling out some disgraceful and racist behavior by our president," Spellios told a gathering of state and local officials and developers in Jackson Park Thursday morning during an event announcing affordable rental housing awards statewide.
"And I know that is not what today is about," Spellios said. "But, what I've learned in my short term in public service is that there is nothing more important, even more important than what we are doing today in terms of announcing and supporting public housing, than speaking out against inappropriate behavior, injustice, especially when it's by those in power," he said to applause.
"Swampscott is proud of you for many reasons, but at the moment, none more than this, thank you," Spellios added.
Baker did not address Trumps' tweets in his remarks during the program, but he addressed Spellios' comments with reporters after.
"And the one thing I learned in local government," Baker said, "I say this all the time, is when your neighbors and your friends are your constituents, you understand and appreciate why its important to treat everybody with respect and to listen to people," Baker said.
Baker noted he has served in state and local government, including a term on the Swampscott Select Board, for decades, and that has taught him something about how to comport himself in public.
"Everybody's not always going to agree," Baker said, "but there is an attitudinal issue here that's fundamental to being part of public life and I found the president's comments and tweets the other day to be exactly the opposite about everything I believe about the way you should comport yourself as a public official."
Baker said he stood with the Jewish community after a flyer denying the Holocaust was found at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead on Monday morning.
Baker said shortly after the shooting in late April at a synagogue in Poway, California that left one person dead and three people injured, including a rabbi, Baker and his wife, Lauren, went to an event at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston. He said he and his wife both remarked to each other how they loved the Jewish community in Swampscott and elsewhere in the Bay State. Chabad of the North Shore "is literally two baseball throws from my house in Swampscott," Baker said.
"(Rabbi) Yossi Lipsker and the congregation there are just wonderful people and there is no room for any of that stuff in my opinion, and I'm going to stand with those communities and with those people whenever I have to."
The controversy about Trump's remarks erupted on Sunday after he tweeted: "So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe ... Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came..."
Three of the four freshmen Congress members singled out by Trump in his tweets where born in the United States: former Boston City Councilor and U.S. Rep., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass; U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York; and U.S. Rep. Rashida Talib, D-Michigan. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. D-Minnesota, was born in Somalia and came to the United States as a young girl.
Trump has denied the tweets were racist. "I don't have a Racist bone in my body!" he tweeted later.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House voted to condemn Trump's statements as being racist. Democrats were joined by four Republicans and an independent. Baker is one of the few notable Republicans to condemn Trump's remarks.
State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, also thanked Baker for his leadership and reassurance to the community.
"I just want to compliment the governor on his leadership at a time when we really needed to hear from him, and I'm so glad he stepped up into this space with a lot of really toxic rhetoric out there and people are afraid and there are things happening within our communities that speak to me that it's a time for leadership," Ehrlich said.
"I want to thank, again, Gov. Baker, because if I were to be told to go home, I would go home to a worse place, California, with even more expensive housing prices," said state Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Janelle Chan, wrapping up an event that focused on projects to create a ffordable housing.
"So thank you, thank you for keeping Massachusetts a welcoming place for everybody," Chan said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.