By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Cory Booker on Thursday said he would create a White House office to combat white supremacy and hate crimes if elected, becoming the latest Democratic presidential candidate to call for action after a racially motivated massacre in Texas.
Booker said he would also require the FBI and the Justice Department to allocate the same level of resources and attention to white supremacist-inspired violence as they devote to international terrorism.
The New Jersey senator announced his plan less than two weeks after a gunman in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people inside a Walmart after posting an anti-immigrant screed online that echoed some of President Donald Trump's heated rhetoric. The attack was among three mass shootings in the span of a week that killed 34 people in all.
The incidents have roiled the presidential race, with Democrats accusing Trump, a Republican, of fomenting hatred while failing to embrace common-sense gun restrictions. Several candidates, including Senator Kamala Harris on Wednesday, have released plans to fight gun violence and white supremacy in the days since the El Paso massacre.
Trump, who has said he is not a racist, has expressed support in the wake of the shooting for "red flag" laws that limit access to guns for dangerous people and a potential expansion of background checks for gun purchases. He has not endorsed any specific legislation.
Last week, at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist gunned down nine people in 2015, Booker criticized Trump's language while linking the El Paso shooting to the United States' long history of racism.
"To say this is to speak the truth plainly, because with the truth there can be no reconciliation," said Booker, who is African-American.
The proposal builds upon Booker's sweeping anti-gun violence plan that would, among other things, establish a national licensing program for gun ownership.
Booker's campaign likened his proposed White House Office on Hate Crimes and White Supremacist Violence to other agencies that presidents have convened to coordinate responses to major domestic crises, such as the White House Office of AIDS Policy.
Under his proposal, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies would be required to conduct assessments of white supremacist threats and improve reporting of hate crimes. Booker would also create an advisory group of leaders from communities hurt by hate crimes to advise his administration.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)