Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson on Sunday went where Hillary Clinton has refused to go, saying Donald Trump is "clearly" racist.
"Based on his statements, clearly," Johnson said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I mean, if statements are being made, is that not reflective?"
Critics of Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — including some in his own party — have said that he makes racist statements, such as when he argued that a Hispanic judge is incapable of presiding fairly over a case involving Trump University. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called that the "textbook definition of a racist comment." But most have stopped short of declaring that Trump is racist.
Clinton, too, has distinguished between what Trump says and who he is. When MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked last month whether Trump is racist, this was Clinton's response:
Well, I don't know what's in his heart, but I know what he's saying with respect to the judge, that's a racist attack. With the attacks on so many other people, he is calling them out for their ethnic background, their race, their religion, their gender. I don't know what else you could call these attacks other than racist, other than prejudice, other than bigoted.
For Johnson, averaging about 8 percent in national polls, calling Trump racist represents a notable ratcheting up of campaign rhetoric. The mellow former governor of New Mexico said during a CNN town hall on June 22 that he did not plan to "engage in any sort of name-calling" aimed at either of the leading major-party candidates. His running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, called Trump a "huckster" at that event, though.
On Sunday, Johnson initially tried to focus only on Trump's comments — specifically his recent statement that he is "looking at" replacing Muslim Transportation Security Administration agents with veterans.
"He has said 100 things that would disqualify anyone else from running for president, but [it] doesn’t seem to affect him," Johnson said. "And just turn the page, and here’s the page turn: Now we have another reason that might disqualify a presidential candidate. That statement [about TSA agents] in and of itself — it really is, uh, it’s racist.
Johnson added that “the stuff he’s saying is just incendiary.”
"Incendiary, but do you think he himself is racist?" asked CNN's Brianna Keilar.
At that point, Johnson said Trump "clearly" is.