In the days since the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, more 2020 candidates have started using the words “white supremacist” to describe not just some of President Donald Trump’s supporters, but even the president himself.
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So far, at least seven Democratic presidential contenders have escalated their criticism of Trump and his racist rhetoric, calling him a “white supremacist” outright. Other candidates, have shied away from using the harsh label, but instead have said he enables and encourages white supremacy across the country, claiming he’s using divisive language as a political strategy.
On Friday, as he left the White House, reporters asked Trump whether he thought being called a white supremacist helps him, after Axios reported earlier Friday, that unnamed campaign officials believe the accusation would help him win in 2020.
“I don’t think it helps,” he told reporters in some of his first comments responding to the Democrats. “First of all, I don’t like when they do it because I am not any of those things. I think it’s a disgrace and I think it shows how desperate the Democrats are.”
Trump has denied being a white supremacist, repeatedly calling himself “the least racist person.”
Webster’s defines a white supremacist as “a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races.”
Here are some of the candidates who have commented and what they’ve said.
Which candidates are calling Trump a white supremacist?
Sen. Bernie Sanders also told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, after the second mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that he believes Trump is a white supremacist.
“Look, and it gives me no pleasure to say this, but I think all of the evidence out there suggests that we have a president who is a racist, who is a xenophobe, who appeals and is trying to appeal to white nationalism. And, you know, it breaks my heart to have to say that this is the person we have who is president of the United States,” Sanders said.
Asked if he agreed that Trump was a “white nationalist or a white supremacist, Sanders answered I do,” and the New York Times reported that a Sanders campaign spokesman later said Sanders believed Trump was both.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren Warren first said President Trump was a white supremacist after an event in Council Bluffs on Wednesday night, accusing him of driving a racial wedge in America while endorsing others who proffer supremacist ethos.
Warren doubled down on her description of the president as a white supremacist on Thursday, substantially toughening her criticism on the heels of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, carried out by an alleged shooter who sources say told authorities he was targeting Mexicans.
She said she’s calling President Trump a white supremacist now specifically because “it’s just one piece of evidence after another and at some point, when he has been so embraced by the white supremacist and has not distanced himself, then he’s there.”
Former congressman Beto O’Rourke said to MSNBC that Trump has made it “very clear” that he’s a white supremacist.
“He dehumanized those who do not look and pray like the majority of people here. He said I wish we had more immigrants from Nordic countries because those from Haiti bring AIDS, those from Africa are sh—— nations.”
In a CNN interview Friday, Andrew Yang said that “you have no choice but to say that’s what he is given his statements.”
“The president’s actions and words have conveyed a very strong sense to many, many Americans that he has white supremacist beliefs,” Yang said.
While speaking at a National Association of Black Journalists 2019 Conference on Thursday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg when asked if he thinks Trump is a white supremacist said, “Yes, I do. At best, he’s emboldening people with that intention.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Monday told CNN that Trump has been “emboldening white supremacists his entire presidency and his campaign. He’s been using language to demonize immigrants, to demonize the vulnerable his entire presidency.” iIn an interview with CBS News she said, “Ive called him a white supremacist, as well as a racist many many times, ’cause he is.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and billionaire entrepreneur Tom Steyer have as well.
Some 2020 candidates say he encourages white supremacists
Not all of the 2020 competitors are willing to call the president a white supremacist — at least not using the actual term.
With President Trump still flying from Dayton, Ohio, to El Paso, Texas, in the wake of weekend mass shootings in the two cities, former Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that the president was encouraging white supremacy and violence with his divisive rhetoric.
“How far is it from Trump saying this is an invasion to the shooter in El Paso declaring, quote, ‘this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?’ How far apart are those comments,” Biden asked rhetorically. “I don’t think it’s that far at all. It’s both clear language and in code. This president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation.”
Then the next day, ABC News’ Mary Bruce asked Biden asked Biden he believes President Trump is a white supremacist, and, while declining to use the term to describe the president, suggested that what Trump is saying might be “worse.”
“I believe everything the president says and does encourages white supremacists. And I’m not sure there’s much of a distinction. As a matter of fact, it may be even worse. In fact to be out there, trying to in fact curry the favor of white supremacists or any group that in fact is anathema to anything we believe. So whether he is or is not a white supremacist, he encourages them. Everything he does he speaks to them, he’s afraid to take them on,” Biden said.
In an interview Friday with former Clinton HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Bruce asked: “We’ve seen some of your competitors saying the president, point blank, is a white supremacist. Do you agree with that? Castro replied: “I agree that he’s stoked that kind of division. I agree that he’s a racist. From everything I can tell, he seems to believe that white people are somehow above other people. Unfortunately, he believes that.”
Marianne Williamson in an interview with Fox News Wednesday evening when asked if she believes there is a direct link between the president and white supremacy said. “I think they’re two different things. Fanning the flames is different than a direct link. Do I feel he’s fanned the flames? Absolutely. Do I think there’s a direct link? No.”
In March, Amy Klobuchar told CNN that white supremacists are using the president as an excuse to carry out violence.
“I don’t think you can actually take each of the murderous acts and say what role Donald Trump played,” Klobuchar said, “But I can tell you this. His rhetoric doesn’t help.
She added, “So to me that means, at the very least, he is dividing people. They are using him as an excuse.”
Sen. Cory Booker, in response to the El Paso, mass shooting, where sources say the shooter wrote a virulent anti-immigration screed, said to CNN, ““I think, at the end of the day, especially because this was a white supremacist manifesto, that I want to say with more moral clarity that Donald Trump is responsible for this. He is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry.”
During the Iowa state fair on Friday, John Delaney was reluctant to call President Trump a white supremacist when asked by reporters, saying instead that he “enables white supremacists.”
ABC News’ Briana Stewart reported that voters surrounding the press area became agitated, asking the moderate presidential candidate to clarify what he meant.
“Say it!” Stop with the semantics.” One voter yelled, interrupting Delaney’s exchange with the press.
Delaney responded, “He supports white supremacy so what else can you conclude,” he told them. “We need a new president.”
When asked what’s the difference between enabling white supremacy and being a white supremacist, Delaney said, “I don’t actually think there’s a difference. I think it’s awful. It’s awful what happening in our country right now and we have to end it.”
“I know what it is. It’s the rhetoric out there. It’s the refusal of the president of the United States, when you see Charlottesville happen, to condemn it in the way he should. Instead, remember, he said, there’s two sides. Well, there’s not two sides when you’re dealing with white nationalism and the Ku Klux Klan. There’s only one side. So, you have that going on. And then you have the constant attacks on immigrants and on people of color.”
Which candidates are not even using the term?
When Sen. Kamala Harris was asked Thursday about her fellow Democratic hopefuls calling Trump a white supremacist, and whether she thought the same, she answered: “I think you should ask him that question.”
What Trump and his campaign are saying
As noted, Trump has insisted he is “the least racist person” and his campaign is pushing the idea that calling the president a white supremacist won’t be a “winning” 2020 election strategy for Democrats.
The campaign told ABC News that by labeling the president a white supremacist, Democrats are also calling “half of the country racist.”
“For two years Democrats called the President a Russian agent. Since that failed they’ve moved on to calling him a racist, white supremacist, mass murderer. It’s false and absurd on its face and Americans will see that Democrats are trying to divide Americans. They’re also claiming that anyone who supports President Trump is racist. Calling half of the country racist is not a winning strategy and is not unifying,”Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News.
A July Quinnipiac poll found that 51% of Americans view Trump as a racist.
ABC News’ Mary Bruce, Quinn Scanlan and Will Steakin contributed to this report.