WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao delivers remarks during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's 'Infrastructure Week' program May 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Chao highlighted the repair of the I-85 Atlanta highway bridge that collapsed March 30 as an example of public-private work that helped repair the damage in record time. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
By Samantha Cooney
June 30, 2017

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, one of four women in President Donald Trump’s cabinet (and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell), defended Trump after his widely-condemned tweets about Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski. “The president is a citizen as well,” Chao told USA Today’s Joanne Lipman in an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

On Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that Brzezinski was “low I.Q. crazy” and alleged that she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” on New Year’s Eve. (Brzezinski, who responded to his comments in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday morning denies she had a face lift.) Many people lambasted the sexist comments and called on women in the Administration to speak out on the remarks.

Thursday afternoon, Lipman asked Chao, who also served in President George W. Bush’s cabinet, her thoughts on Trump’s tweets.

She responded:

“Well the president is a citizen as well and he says what he wants to say. I think one of the things that is important is that you have to take a look of actions. And I think to a certain group within America — not group, but to a certain segment — the country was too dependent on government. It was going in a direction that many disagreed with. And so he was able to touch a chord with a great number of people who felt that somehow this country needed to have their voices heard. Now, he’s not in politics. And so he’s not used to the usual restraints that people in pubic service have. You know, he’s new. He will adapt and learn.”

When Lipman pressed, Chao said that she did not agree with Trump’s comments. Lipman asked whether Chao had a relationship with Trump in which she would criticize him on these issues, Chao responded: “What’s most important is where the government is going. For those of us who have agreed to serve in this government, we have a certain point of view as to where America should go,” adding that she’s focused on “important issues” like infrastructure and the economy.

Watch Chao respond above.

Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com.


You May Like