Booker says Trump uses "race like a weapon" to divide the country

Booker: Trump uses "race like a weapon"

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, one of the two dozen Democrats competing for the party's presidential nomination, said President Trump is weaponizing racial animus to sow division in the country for his own political gain. 

"He is somebody that is using race like a weapon to divide our country against itself," Booker said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "He's been using it since before he became president as a way to accelerate his gaining of political power."

The New Jersey Democrat was referring to the president's recent attacks against four progressive lawmakers of color. Last week, Mr. Trump posted a series of racist tweets suggesting that Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan should "go back" to the "totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Only Omar was born outside the U.S. Pressley, who is African American, was born in Ohio. Ocasio-Cortez, of Puerto Rican heritage, was born in New York. Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, was born in Detroit. Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was born in Somalia, a country she and her family fled from because of a civil war. 

Booker said the president's controversial remarks — which were formally condemned by a resolution passed by the Democratic-led House — are reminiscent of tactics used by politicians throughout American history to stir up xenophobia and racism for political gain. He compared them to anti-Irish tropes in the 19th century and the rhetoric of segregationists during the Civil Rights era.  

"The language he uses is actually language, tired old tropes, that have been used by demagogues all throughout our country's history," Booker said, adding later. "This president is yet another sad chapter."

Citing the work across the aisle Democrats and Republicans achieved last century to pass civil rights legislation — and how he believes those laws allowed him to become a U.S. senator — Booker said denouncing Mr. Trump's comments should be a bipartisan undertaking. Anything else, he added, is a dereliction of duty. 

"I don't give a damn about the politics of it. Racism is racism," he said. "And to say nothing in the face of it is to be complicit in that kind of language."

  • Camilo Montoya-Galvez
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    Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics. Twitter: @camiloreports