Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former congressman Beto O’Rourke, said they consider President Trump to be a white supremacist, an extraordinary charge against a sitting president.
The candidates gave their assessment only after being asked whether they believe the president is a “white supremacist.”
The New York Times reported Warren (D-Mass.), when asked in a brief interview, replied “yes” without hesitation.
“He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists,” Warren said during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “He’s done the wink and a nod. He has talked about white supremacists as fine people. He’s done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country.”
O’Rourke, whose Texas district included El Paso, where a gunman killed 22 Saturday in a mass shooting targeting Latinos, was asked during an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday if he considers Trump to be a white supremacist.
“He is,” O’Rourke replied. “He’s also made that very clear. He’s dehumanized or sought to dehumanize those who do not look like or pray like the majority here in this country. . . . He’s been clear who he wants to keep out with walls and cages and militarization and torture and cruelty.”
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, asked the same question on Thursday, said, “I do.”
Former vice president Joe Biden came just shy of calling Trump a “white supremacist” but told reporters that the president encourages that hatred.
“I believe everything the president says and does encourages white supremacists,” Biden said after he spoke at the Iowa State Fair. “And I’m not sure there’s much of a distinction — as a matter of fact, it may even be worse. In fact, if you’re out there trying to, in fact, curry the favor of white supremacists or any group, in fact, is anathema to everything we believe.”
Pressed on why he won’t label Trump a “white supremacist,” Biden said: “You just want me to say the words so I sound like everybody else. . . . He is encouraging white supremacists. You can determine what that means.”
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), one of two black candidates in the presidential race, also wouldn’t go so far as call the president a “white supremacist.”
“There’s no question that his words and his language while he was running for office and since he’s been in office of president of the United States has been about condoning the conduct of white supremacists, so I think it’s a fair conversation that’s happening,” she said.
Asked again to clarify if she would call him a white supremacist, Harris said: “I think you should ask him that question.”
The White House hopefuls made their comments during and after Trump’s visit to two cities mourning mass shootings, including El Paso. The gunman who killed 22 people there appeared to have written a missive echoing Trump’s disparaging language about immigration.
Trump, in an address from the White House on Monday, urged the nation to condemn white supremacy. On Wednesday, as he departed for visits to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, he said he does not like hate, “whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy.”
Trump has also repeatedly called himself “the least racist person in the world.”
Since taking office, Trump has generated numerous controversies related to race.
Among the more recent was his call for four liberal minority congresswomen to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Only one of the freshman lawmakers targeted by Trump — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — was born outside the United States. She became a U.S. citizen in 2000.
Trump also has recently trained his ire on Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), an African American lawmaker whose majority-black district includes part of Baltimore.
Matt Viser and Chelsea Janes in Iowa contributed to this story.