Senator Cory Booker Says Donald Trump 'Worse Than a Racist,' Compares President to George Wallace, Joseph McCarthy

Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker said Sunday that President Donald Trump is "worse than a racist" for what he views as the president's use of divisive rhetoric for political purposes.

The New Jersey senator appeared Sunday morning on CNN's State of the Union, where host Dana Bash asked him why he had been reluctant in joining some of his fellow Democratic candidates in explicitly calling Trump a racist.

"I'm not. The reality is, this is a guy who is worse than a racist," answered Booker. "He's using racist tropes and racial language for political gain. He's trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself."

Booker then compared Trump to George Wallace, an avowed segregationist who served multiple terms as governor of Alabama from the 1960s through the 1980s and who made several unsuccessful runs as a Democratic presidential candidate.

"This is someone who is very similar to George Wallace," said the senator about Trump. "He's using the exact same language. Someone texted me during one of his rallies, 'I've seen this before in black and white and now I'm seeing it again, decades later when I thought our country was beyond this. I'm seeing this in full color.'"

"This is a guy who is worse than a racist," said 2020 candidate Cory Booker on #CNNSOTU. "We have a demagogue, fear-mongering person who is using race to divide. This is a referendum, not on him, it's actually a referendum on the heart and soul of our country."

— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) July 21, 2019

The senator also likened the current administration to two other infamous and insular movements in American history. First, he mentioned the Know Nothing Party of the mid-19th century, which openly opposed immigration — primarily from Germans and Irish migrants — to the relatively new nation.

Booker then referenced Joseph McCarthy the Wisconsin senator who led government inquiries into alleged Communists living and working in the U.S. during the 1950s.

"We have a demagogue, fear-mongering person who is using race to divide," said Booker. "This is a referendum — not on [Trump] — this is a referendum on the heart and soul of our country. Who are we going to be and who are we going to be to each other?"

Later in the interview, Bash returned to the issue of racism and divisive rhetoric, asking Booker about a comment he had recently made regarding the possibility of meeting avowed anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.

Bash quoted Booker as having recently stated, "I don't feel like I need to do that [meet Farrakhan], but I'm not one of those people who says that I wouldn't sit down with anybody to hear what they have to say."

The senator claimed that this quote was out of context and then provided a more definitive statement on the matter, telling Bash, "I will not sit down with Louis Farrakhan, period, and I reject anybody who projects that kind of bigotry and hate toward other Americans."

Booker was not the only prominent politician calling the president a racist on Sunday morning.

Congressman Elijah Cummings appeared on ABC News' This Week, where he talked to host George Stephanopoulos about Trump's recent tweets targeting progressive Democratic Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley, telling them to "go back" to their home countries — even though all but one were born in the U.S. — and accusing them of hating America. Cummings said this sort of talk, also exemplified by the "send her back" chant directed at Omar during a Trump campaign rally last Wednesday, brought up painful memories of being harassed and attacked in the 1960s by segregationists.

Rep. Elijah Cummings says the "send her back" chants remind him of his experience in the fight for desegregation in the 60s: "When [Trump] does these things ... it brings up the same feelings that I had over 50 some years ago, and it's very, very painful"

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) July 21, 2019

"It brings up the same feelings that I had over fifty-some years ago, and it's very, very painful," said the Maryland congressman. "It's extremely divisive and I just don't think this is becoming of the president of the United States of America, the leader of the entire world. We can do better than that. I don't care what anybody says, and I think our Republican friends have to stand up and say not just that it might be inappropriate. No, they've gotta go further than that and say, 'Mr. President, you're absolutely wrong.'"

Stephanopoulos later asked Cummings directly if he thought the president was a racist.

"No doubt about it," responded Cummings. "I tried to give him the benefit of a doubt, but let me tell you, George... When I think about what he said to these young ladies, who are merely trying to bring excellence to government, and trying to make sure that generations yet unborn have an opportunity to experience a true democracy, when I hear those things, it takes me back, like I said."

The president did have his defenders on the Sunday morning talk shows. Campaign aide Mercedes Schlapp also appeared on This Week, where she said Trump was not the person his critics claimed him to be.

"I have worked with President Trump for two years and he is not a racist. He is a compassionate man whose policies have focused on the minority community," said Schlapp, pointing to low unemployment statistics for black and Hispanic workers in the U.S. "He is a results-oriented president who is focused on uplifting all Americans, including blacks, including Hispanics."

Stephanopoulos, however, challenged Schlapp on her claim that Trump had objected to the "send her back" chant at last week's rally, pointing out that the president did nothing to quell the crowd in the moment or correct them, and that the president only expressed a distaste for the chant after the fact.

Cory Booker