The creator and star of the seminal TV series The Wire have blasted Donald Trump, after the president described Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings’ Baltimore-centered district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess”.
Series creator David Simon, who worked as a police reporter on the Baltimore Sun before turning to script-writing, called Trump a “simplistic, racist moron” and “a permanent stain on our land”.
In an email to the Guardian on Sunday, the actor Dominic West, who played Detective Jimmy McNulty in all five seasons of The Wire, asked: “What would a lonely hysterical neurotic who uses hand cleanser all day understand about a vibrant community like Baltimore?
“Martin Amis said of Fred West the serial killer that he was a ‘colossus of mendacity’. It’s an apt description of Trump.”
West played the British murderer in Appropriate Adult, a TV drama shown in 2011.
On Sunday, he also quoted Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, another target of Trump’s racist invective, when he added: “Impeach the motherfucker!”
The president triggered another racism-tinged firestorm with his attack on Cummings. Simon was not the only famous Baltimorean to comment.
The filmmaker John Waters told ARTnews: “Give me the rats and roaches of Baltimore any day over the lies and racism of your Washington, Mr Trump. Come on over to that neighborhood and see if you have the nerve to say it in person!”
In tweets on Saturday, Simon described the president as an “empty-suit, race-hating fraud” who would “wet himself” if he spent five minutes in West Baltimore.
He expanded on his theme, saying Trump would be terrified if he “stepped out of his limo and found himself suddenly a racial minority”.
If Trump dared to visit Baltimore – a city with an African American majority, according to the US census – Simon said he would find the “humanity of those he encountered could not matter to him; only their lack of whiteness and his discomfort”.
Trump tweeted that Cummings, who as chair of the House oversight committee is a leading critic of his administration, would be better off focusing on Baltimore than the southern border, where squalid conditions have attracted controversy well beyond Congress.
“Maybe,” Trump suggested, “he could help clean up this very dangerous [and] filthy place”.
Simon said Baltimore was “a city of good Americans who deserve more than a grifting, hollow and self-absorbed failure of a man as their president”.
The award-winning writer later got into a dispute with a Twitter user who said Trump had not created Baltimore’s problems.
“Who the fuck said they were?” Simon wrote. “Everything said, you heard backwards somehow. No, Trump attempted to blame a solitary US Rep[resentative] for half a century of urban policy, drug warring, white flight … and deindustrialization. And you flipped that around? Fuck. Off.”
In another exchange, Simon explained that The Wire had addressed systemic and historical forces arrayed against his city.
“It wasn’t so submoronic as to argue that one US representative could be held accountable for US urban policy or lack thereof,” he wrote. “For that, we require Trump.”
Waters later spoke to MSNBC, saying he had lived in Cummings’ district for 17 years.
“I never had the slightest bit of trouble,” said the director of classics such as Female Trouble and Pink Flamingoes, adding that the city had been an inspiration for his art.
When he was filming Hairspray in the city, he said, he directed actor Rickie Lake to kick a fake rat off her shoe.
Simon has become the pre-eminent TV diarist of human resilience in the face of urban decline, setting Treme, his follow-up to The Wire, in New Orleans and The Deuce in 1970s New York. He is now turning Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America into a six-part HBO series.
Roth’s 2004 book imagines an alternate history in which aviator Charles Lindberg becomes president and turns the leads the US toward fascism.