Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, who has recently slumped in polling, finally confronted a looming presence over his White House bid: his privilege.
During an interview Tuesday on ABC's "The View," which is becoming a must-stop for Oval Office hopefuls, the former Texas congressman clarified past comments he made about being "born" to run for president and comments about his wife raising their three children.
Co-host Meghan McCain began questioning O'Rourke's privilege of being able to take weeks off to drive around the country to weigh whether he should run for president, and then be on the cover of Vanity Fair as part of his campaign rollout.
"You're right, there are things that I have been privileged to do in my life that others cannot. I think that the more that I travel and listen to people and learn from them, the clearer that becomes to me," O'Rourke told McCain.
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O'Rourke was on the cover of Vanity Fair's April issue, but the article and cover photo were released on March 13, one day before the former congressman announced his presidential bid. He jumped into one of the largest and most diverse Democratic fields ever, with many women and people of color vying to be the party's nominee.
During the Vanity Fair interview, O'Rourke weighed in on running for president saying, "I want to be in it." He then goes on to say: "Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment."
His comments raised the ire of many critics, who pointed to the fact that he had just lost a Senate race but believed he could win a presidential race. In addition, a number of memes surfaced based on the magazine's cover image of him, which was shot by prominent photographer Annie Leibovitz.
However, O'Rourke said Tuesday on "The View" that he is now aware of his privilege and will try to use that awereness to help others.
"The systematic foundational discrimination that we have in this country, in every aspect of life, is something that I have not experienced in my lifetime and I've had advantages that others cannot enjoy," he said, adding that he will do everything in his power to correct that.
Co-host Joy Behar went on to ask the Texas Democrat if he believes that saying he was "born to be in it" was a mistake and if being on the cover of Vanity Fair looked "elitist."
"I think it reinforces that perception of privilege," O'Rourke said of the article and its headline using his "born" quote.
He clarified that in the article he was "attempting to say that I felt that my calling was in public service."
"No one is born to be president of the United States of America, least of all me," he said.
According to an average of polling from Real Clear Politics, O'Rourke is at 4.2 percent. The 2020 contender, however, has dropped in polling over the past several months. At the time he announced his bid, O'Rourke garnered the most first-day fundraising in the Democratic 2020 field and was consistently in the top three candidates in polling.
Now, former Vice President Joe Biden has beaten O'Rourke's first-day fundraising total and is one of the top candidates among voters. Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are leading in the polls, with both candidates polling in the double digits. O'Rourke has become a second-tier candidate, behind Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as well as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
O'Rourke's recent media blitz is being taken by some political observers as an attempt to make a comeback after his drop in the polls and as the dynamic of the Democratic field has changed with Biden's entry, who instantly assumed front-runner status.
During his daytime talk show appearance, O'Rourke also addressed separate controversial remarks he made on the campaign trail.
During his first stop in Iowa after announcing his candidacy, O'Rourke commented that his wife, Amy, is raising their three children "sometimes with my help." Critics of the comment said it reinforced the idea that wives have to stay home and take care of children, while husbands can focus on their careers.
Amy O'Rourke made her first appearance on the campaign trail with her husband just this week.
"The View" hosts agreed that Beto O'Rourke "got some flack" for his "part-time dad" comment.
"Absolutely, and I deserved it," he said.
"In a real ham-handed way, I was trying to acknowledge that she has a lion's share of the responsibility during this campaign," he said.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: O'Rourke backtracks on Vanity Fair cover: 'It reinforces that perception of privilege'