SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. — New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker responded Friday to critics who believe he should unequivocally call President Trump “a racist.” Booker, campaigning for president at Reedy Fork Baptist Church, said he has been “very focused” on fighting Trump’s “racist and harmful policies” and is less concerned with “how you label” the president. He also accused Trump of emboldening white supremacists in the country.
Booker previously addressed the issue of whether to speak out on Trump’s views on race when he launched his campaign on Feb. 1. At the senator’s first press conference, a reporter asked him if he believes Trump is “a racist.”
“I don’t know the heart of anybody. I’ll leave that to the Lord. … I know there are a lot of people who profess the ideology of white supremacy that use his words,” Booker said.
That response drew backlash from liberal critics who argue that Trump should be labeled a “racist.” Other Democratic hopefuls have used the term “racist” to describe Trump.
Yahoo News asked Booker how he felt about the distinction at his event on Friday. He offered a lengthy critique of Trump’s positions on racial issues.
“Donald Trump has been using race … as a way to divide Americans. He’s been attacking people. He’s been using racist policies and language. He’s been empowering hate,” Booker said.
Booker went on to note FBI data showing that the number of hate crimes in the country spiked in 2017, Trump’s first year in office.
“We’ve seen unfortunate reports of biased incidences going up. I believe we need to protect ourselves and our communities and our neighborhoods from the kind of racist policies and actions that we see coming from this president,” Booker said. “It’s deeply unfortunate that this is a man who … can’t condemn Nazis … a guy who, literally, you see white supremacists using his language in their own materials.”
Booker added that Trump’s behavior has been “unacceptable” and is “something we should stand up against.”
“This is something that I’m very focused on from the time that I’ve been in office. I want to stand strong against the kind of policies that are hurting people,” said Booker.
After his extended criticism of the president, Yahoo News pressed Booker on whether he thought Trump was a “racist.”
“I’m less concerned about how you label him than I am about protecting people that he’s hurting and protecting against his racist and harmful policies,” Booker said.
Read more from Yahoo News: