Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) on Saturday said President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and policies compelled her to speak up as a minority and female lawmaker and the Senate’s only immigrant, calling his recent gibes against her a "badge of honor."
“Let’s face it: This president and this administration give me a lot of reasons to be vocal and visible. And I think it’s really important at a time like this for people to see a face like mine, which is obviously a minority face,” Hirono told POLITICO’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer during an interview at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
“I think it’s really important for people in our country to understand that when minorities are attacked, as this president does on a daily basis, that I should speak up,” she added.
Hirono also said Trump’s election to the White House in 2016 allowed her to become more candid with reporters in Congress and precipitated her “journey of becoming a lot more plain — I call it plain — when I speak.”
Hirono, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, garnered national attention last year for her forceful opposition to Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court seat, which were dominated by decades-old sexual assault accusations against the federal judge.
Addressing the media at the time, Hirono called on American men to “do the right thing for a change” and end sexual violence.
“Guess who’s perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country," she said. "And I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up.”
The president blasted those remarks last weekend, mocking Hirono during his more than two-hour address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.
“The crazy female senator from the state of Ohio — the state of Hawaii, right?” Trump said. “She’s like, she’s like a crazy person. What she said about men is so bad. What she said about men is so bad.”
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Hirono on Saturday said Trump’s CPAC jab was “pretty funny” and that she considered it a “badge of honor.”
“This is the second time he’s referred to me as ‘that crazy female senator from Hawaii,’” Hirono said. “And I’ve decided that the reason he doesn’t say my name is because he can’t figure out how to pronounce it and he doesn’t want to look foolish in front of his adoring audience.”
Hirono went on to call Trump a “liar,” “misogynist” and “an admitted sexual predator,” but stopped short of saying House Democrats should launch impeachment proceedings.
“It’s time to investigate the man, that’s for sure,” she said, adding: “We should not be rushing into impeachment. This is serious business. And I certainly don’t want to end up making the president a martyr.”
Hirono declined to single out for praise one of the many Democrats vying to replace Trump in 2020 but said there was an “abundance of riches” among her Senate colleagues competing for the nomination — including New Jersey’s Cory Booker, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, California’s Kamala Harris, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren.
Asked about the presidential candidacy of fellow Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hirono appeared reluctant to extinguish the feud that began between the Aloha State lawmakers in January — when Gabbard in an op-ed accused Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee of “religious bigotry” in their questioning of a Trump nominee for a district judgeship.
“I wish her well,” Hirono said.
“She had called me a religious bigot, which was totally unfounded,” Hirono continued. “And I thought, ‘Wow.’ If she wants to be in the lane that has the support of David Duke and [Steve] Bannon and the Russian bots, she’s got that lane. That’s not my lane.”
Hirono also took aim at Gabbard’s much-criticized meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2017, remarking: “I think I joined everyone in saying, ‘What the heck what is that all about?’”