Cory Booker says ‘racists think' Trump is 'racist' as the president faces backlash over tepid response to New Zealand shooting

  • Sen. Cory Booker on Monday said “racists think” President Donald Trump is a “racist” as the president faces criticism for not expressing concern about white nationalism following two terror shootings at mosques in New Zealand.
  • “His language is causing pain and fear,” Booker said of Trump. “The way he’s talking is making people afraid.”
  • Booker has avoided explicitly calling Trump a “racist,” focusing more on combatting the president’s policies.

Sen. Cory Booker, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020, has been campaigning on a message of unity and has been less explicitly critical of President Donald Trump than some of the other candidates.

During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Monday, Booker went after the president over his rhetoric on race as Trump faces criticism on his response to a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. But the New Jersey senator would not directly refer to Trump as a racist.

“Racists think he’s racist, and his language hurts people,” Booker said of Trump.

“His language is causing pain and fear,” the presidential hopeful added. “The way he’s talking is making people afraid.”

Read more:
Trump makes no mention of terrorism or bigotry in tweet on New Zealand mosque shootings, as other world leaders decry an act of ‘racist hatred’

When asked whether he believes Trump is a racist in early February, Booker offered a similar response. “I don’t know the heart of anybody,” Booker said. “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 expanded on this in a subsequent interview with Yahoo News after facing criticism from some on the political for not explicitly calling Trump “racist.”

“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 in early March. “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.”

Other 2020 candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders have been more direct in their criticism of Trump, unabashedly referring to the president as a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and a fraud.”

Read more:
Trump says he doesn’t see white nationalism as a rising threat around the world after New Zealand terror attack

Booker, who if elected would be the first direct descendant of slaves to be president, is taking a more cautious tone along the campaign trail. The senator has contended he’s “less concerned about how you label [Trump] than” he is about “protecting people that [Trump is] hurting and protecting against his racist and harmful policies.”

The senator’s criticism of Trump on Monday occurred as Trump faces backlash for not being more outspoken in condemning white nationalism. The man who’s claimed responsibility for the New Zealand massacre last week wrote a 74-page manifesto that praised Trump and espoused a white nationalist philosophy.

Read more:
Right-wing violence has ‘accelerated’ in the US since Trump took office

Trump, who’s already been repeatedly condemned over his rhetoric toward Muslims, in the wake of the shooting told reporters he did not think white nationalism is on the rise. But data from the FBI as well as independent research suggests far-right violence, particularly white nationalism, is indeed increasing.

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