New York Congressman Lee Zeldin said that Donald Trump’s questioning of a Mexican-American judge’s ability to rule fairly due to his heritage does not make him a racist — and insisted President Obama is the actual racist.
“You can easily argue that the president of the United States is a racist with his policies and his rhetoric,” the Republican representative said in a rambling CNN interview, in which he attempted to argue that while Trump’s comments were racist, the real estate mogul is not racist.
“Quite frankly the policies that I have seen from the Democratic party where you’re micro-targeting a community and when you are putting blacks together and Hispanics together and certain economic messages and positions on issues, quite frankly with the way I define racism I see it a lot in policies and statements that has [sic] taken place,” he said.
Zeldin said that a racist statement by Trump does not a racist make.
“Donald Trump, as far as his character goes, he isn’t making that statement because he feels like he is superior because he is white and the judge is Mexican,” said Zeldin, who represents eastern Long Island.
The Jewish lawmaker concluded by saying that he was not attempting to single out racists.
“My purpose here isn’t to go through the list and call everyone a racist. I’m saying that we all can up our game with rhetoric and policy because America — we are a a nation of immigrants, we are a melting pot.”
Trump has come under fire for saying a Mexican-American judge overseeing two lawsuits against Trump University could not be impartial due to his ethnicity.
The presumptive Republican nominee has called Mexicans “rapists” and said he will make Mexico pay to build a wall on its border with the U.S.
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who has endorsed the real estate mogul, said Tuesday that Trump’s statement was “the textbook definition of a racist comment”
Watch the interview here:
Contact Josefin Dolsten at email@example.com or on Twitter, @JosefinDolsten
Josefin Dolsten is a news fellow at the Forward. She writes about politics and culture, and edits the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten.