Booker 'less concerned' with calling Trump a racist

SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. — New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker responded Friday to critics who believe he should unequivocally call President Trump “a racist.” Booker, campaigning for president at Reedy Fork Baptist Church, said he has been “very focused” on fighting Trump’s “racist and harmful policies” and is less concerned with “how you label” the president. He also accused Trump of emboldening white supremacists in the country.

Booker previously addressed the issue of whether to speak out on Trump’s views on race when he launched his campaign on Feb. 1. At the senator’s first press conference, a reporter asked him if he believes Trump is “a racist.”

“I don’t know the heart of anybody. 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 said.

That response drew backlash from liberal critics who argue that Trump should be labeled a “racist.” Other Democratic hopefuls have used the term “racist” to describe Trump.

Yahoo News asked Booker how he felt about the distinction at his event on Friday. He offered a lengthy critique of Trump’s positions on racial issues.

“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.

Booker went on to note FBI data showing that the number of hate crimes in the country spiked in 2017, Trump’s first year in office.

“We’ve seen unfortunate reports of biased incidences going up. I believe we need to protect ourselves and our communities and our neighborhoods from the kind of racist policies and actions that we see coming from this president,” Booker said. “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.”

Booker added that Trump’s behavior has been “unacceptable” and is “something we should stand up against.”

“This is something that I’m very focused on from the time that I’ve been in office. I want to stand strong against the kind of policies that are hurting people,” said Booker.

After his extended criticism of the president, Yahoo News pressed Booker on whether he thought Trump was a “racist.”

“I’m less concerned about how you label him than I am about protecting people that he’s hurting and protecting against his racist and harmful policies,” Booker said.

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Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) listens to CIA Director Mike Pompeo respond to his question as Pompeo testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Pompeo's nomination to be secretary of state on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) answers questions at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Film Interactive Festival 2017 in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) waves after Senate Republicans unveiled their version of legislation that would replace Obamacare on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) attends New York premiere "Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice" at Radio City Music Hall in New York, March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee during the second day of confirmation hearings on Senator Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) nomination to be U.S. attorney general in Washington, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) addresses the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Legislative Conference and Presidential Forum in Washington March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) speaks during a news conference with fellow Democrats and unemployed Americans to highlight their political divide with Republicans over unemployment insurance legislation, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, January 16, 2014. Efforts to renew emergency federal jobless benefits for 1.5 million Americans stalled in the Senate on Tuesday when Democrats and Republicans rejected each other's proposals. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)
U.S. Senators' Cory Booker (D-NJ) (C), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and John McCain (R-AZ) (lowerR) are pictured in the gallery prior to U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) stands next to his mother Carolyn Booker (C) after U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden (R) ceremonially swore in Booker as the latest U.S. Senator in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 31, 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats welcomed a new colleague to the U.S. Senate on Thursday, newly elected Booker, and the additional vote Booker gives them in the Senate. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker delivers a speech during his campaign's election night event in Newark, New Jersey, October 16, 2013. Democrat Booker, the charismatic mayor of Newark, was the unofficial winner of a New Jersey special election on Wednesday, handily defeating a conservative Republican to fill the state's vacant U.S. Senate seat. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Newark New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker listens to U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaking to students during a visit to the Maple Avenue school in Newark, New Jersey, November 18, 2010. Michelle Obama was making the visit along with Booker to promote her "let's Move" initiative to reduce childhood obesity. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES)
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (R) speaks to the media outside a burned house in Newark, New Jersey, April 13, 2012. Booker said on Friday he was no superhero, only a good neighbor when he broke free from his security detail to dash into a burning house and rescue a woman. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY)
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