Beto O'Rourke says he has enjoyed 'privileges' in his life as a white man

  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas said Sunday that though he had been afforded a number of “privileges” because of his race and gender in his life, his background and experience make him a valuable candidate in the Democratic field.
  • O’Rourke spoke to NBC’s “Meet the Press” on the campaign trail, where he’s received criticism over the amount of coverage he’s received since his entry into the race.
  • Other controversies over recent comments by the former congressman about his wife raising their children and his past arrests sparked questions of double standards and privilege among the widely diverse Democratic field.

Former Rep. and Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke of Texas said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that though he had been afforded a number of “privileges” because of his race and gender in his life, his background and experience make him a valuable candidate in the Democratic field.

“As a white man who has had privileges that others could not depend on, or take for granted, I’ve clearly had advantages over the course of my life,” O’Rourke told host Chuck Todd in an interview on the campaign trail in Iowa.

“I think recognising that and understanding that others have not, doing everything I can to ensure that there is opportunity and the possibility for advancement and advantage for everyone, is a big part of this campaign and a big part of the people who comprise this campaign,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke, who burst into the national spotlight ahead of the November 2018 midterms for his ultimately unsuccessful bid to unseat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has received criticism over his widely covered first few weeks as a candidate, which have included intimate profiles in the New York Times and Vanity Fair.

However, O’Rourke has embraced his personal background as a foundation for his campaign and policy preferences, telling Todd that his hometown of El Paso informs his perspective on the current debate on immigration and the US-Mexico border.

“I also happen to be the only candidate from the United States-Mexico border at a time that that dominates so much of our national conversation and legislative efforts and the things that the president talks about,” O’Rourke said. “There’s one candidate who’s there who can talk about the profoundly positive impact that immigrants have had on our safety and our security, as well as our success and our strength.”

Read more:

Why Beto O’Rourke could lose in his quest to win the 2020 Democratic nomination

Among the most diverse set of Democratic candidates yet, race, gender, and identity have dominated how candidates discuss key issues. Julián Castro, who served as mayor of San Antonio, has presented his roots as the grandson of an immigrant as a key part of his policy interests since he announced his campaign.

O’Rourke’s comment comes as one of the first to address “privilege” among the 2020 contenders and the second time the candidate has addressed the criticism this week, days after he officially declared his run.

After apologizing for comments about his wife’s role in raising their children, O’Rourke addressed his two past arrests that occurred in his early 20’s and said that he wasn’t aware at the time how similar charges affect those of different classes and races.

“Those mistakes didn’t end up defining me or narrowing my options in life,” O’Rourke said of his two past arrests. “It’s not because I’m a great person or a genius or I figured anything out, a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m a white man.”

Watch O’Rourke’s full interview below:

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