CNN political commentator Steve Cortes makes the case that President Trump's tweets about Baltimore's rat infestation have nothing to do with race:
Transcript via CNN:
HALA GORANI: Well, let's dig deeper into these president's latest offensive comments and the upcoming debates. Steve Cortes is a CNN political commentator and he's a member of the Trump 2020 reelection committee and he joins me now live from Chicago.
Steve, how is it OK that the president is still saying things four days later like living in Baltimore is living in hell when he's become very obvious he's offending millions of Americans with these tweets and comments?
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Hala, I think what he's actually doing is providing an important contrast and the contrast is the indignation on the left, both by politicians of the Democratic Party and by most of the mainstream media in America. Their indignation when they look at conditions on the border. Because they don't like the way in which United States is carrying for illegal migrant trespassers who came into our country uninvited and un-vetted. When we contrast that --
GORANI: If you don't mind, they're not all illegal. Some of them are asylum seekers and you know this. I want to ask you about the tweets themselves. These tweets have been called racists by people --
CORTES: OK. No, no, hold on. Hold on. They are illegal. They are illegal.
GORANI: But no, you're muddying the debates right out of the gate, and you know it.
CORTES: It's not legal to cross -- it's not legal - it's not legal to cross -- no, it's I'm not. It's not legal to cross at a non-port of entry to seek asylum. So that's not true, they are illegal trespassers --
GORANI: I want to talk about the tweets now. I want to talk about the tweets.
CORTES: Right. And the tweets started with --
GORANI: So many has called them racists --
CORTES: -- and the tweets were a contrast --
GORANI: Why do you disagree?
CORTES: Because the tweets, what they did was highlighted the incredible contrast between the left that wants to care for non-Americans, illegal trespassers across our border, and yet does not seem to prioritize American citizens who live an incredibly poor conditions, who lack hope, how lack education. And in some cases who lack --
GORANI: Steve, those are not what the tweets said.
CORTES: Yes, it is. And in some cases they lack even --
GORANI: He was attacking Elijah Cummings.
CORTES: -- first-world standards of living. But he was attacking the conditions in Baltimore --
GORANI: He was attacking Elijah Cummings and he was calling people who live in Baltimore subhuman, by saying no human people would want --
CORTES: No, he was not, that's wrong. And by the way, no human does want to live in a ghetto, no human wants to live in a place that is infested with rats. That is correct and true. And certainly no Americans should --
GORANI: Baltimore has a higher median household income than some Republican controlled districts. So I'm not sure where you get the entire city is infested with rats.
CORTES: Sure. But as you well know -- I've never said that. Again, you're trying to create a strawman here saying the entire city is infested.
I didn't say that. Donald Trump didn't say that. That's not -- it's not a fair tactic.
However, there are parts of the city, which according to Bernie Sanders, not according to me, there are parts of the city which resembled the third-world. It's interesting that we didn't see outrage when Bernie Sanders said that. And by the way, it was accurate when he said it.
We didn't see outrage then why? Because it came from the left. Now that it comes from Donald Trump, there's outrage among Democratic politicians
and their allies in the mainstream media, why? Because Donald Trump says it and suddenly it becomes racist even though he never mentioned race.
What I think is racist is consigning American citizens, particularly American children to live lives that are without hope, to live in dangerous neighborhoods to go to failing schools as they do in Baltimore, as they do here in my city of Chicago, places that are completely controlled by the Democratic Party.
I think they need to be called out, the Democrats, on their exploitation of minority communities in in this country. They want their votes, but they don't want to help their communities.
GORANI: I think, Steve, if the president focused on poverty or focused on crime, equally. I think people might have a different opinion of these tweets. But there are Republican controlled districts in America that are much poorer.
[14:40:01] St. Louis is a more violent city. One of the Congress people representing St. Louis is a Republican. Why is the president focusing time and time again on district cities that are controlled or led by African- Americans or minorities, why?
CORTES: No, it's not about being African-American minority. BY the way, St. Louis is overwhelmingly democratic. Yes, there is a one Republican representatives but when you talk about --
GORANI: Two Congress people represent St. Louis, one of them is a Republican. So that's a fact.
CORTES: When you talk about there being lower income in some Republican areas, yes, that is of course, true. But we also know that you have to adjust for costs and costs are far higher in major cities and they are, for instance, in rural areas.
But the point here isn't that he's trying to pick on places that are black and brown. Quite the opposite. And I as Hispanic, I appreciate him doing this. What he's saying is to a lot of minority American citizens, you've been exploited by the Democratic Party. They want your votes, but they really frankly don't care what kind of conditions you live in.
And despite decades of failures, and cities of Baltimore and Chicago, they're unwilling to change. I think that's part of the key ingredient here too. Is he's pointing out that these policies are not working. Policies of high taxation and big government and a government monopoly on schools, a lack of school choice.
These policies are not working for black and brown citizens of America. And by shining a light on these failures, he is intrinsically hoping and asking for solutions.
GORANI: Steve, let me share with you, you may have seen it, it's a Fox News poll on whether Americans believe Trump, the president respects racial minorities.
So a majority of whites and non-whites believe the president of the United States does not respect racial minorities. Even among whites, 52 percent believe he is not respectful. Why do you think that is?
CORTES: Right. Well, listen, first of all, I'll be the first to say, we have work to do here. You know, I personally have work to do as a minority who very much believes in his vision. I think the president has work to do here, because he does have to be president for all Americans.
But I will also say this that I think part of the reason for that, that poll is the fact that the mainstream media has repeated the smear, the
false narrative, the president is a narrative -- excuse me, the president is a racist. And even further that narrative to say all of his supporters are racist which is something we're hearing far more often now regularly on newscasts and in prints.
So I think that there has been, unfortunately, some success by the mainstream media in pushing that smear.
GORANI: I'm not sure -- I have never heard anyone on the mainstream media as you call it, call all of Donald Trump's supporters racist. I don't know where you heard that. I personally have not --
CORTES: OK. Well, I'll give you two -- I'll give you two examples. Joe Lockhart who's one of our colleagues, who works for this network, CNN, he tweeted it out, I believe over the weekend, I retweeted it. And he said, "If you vote for Trump, you are a racist."
I'll give you another example. Donald Deutsch, who is a host on MSNBC, he would even further than racist. He said if you vote for Trump, you are a Nazi. So actually, you're wrong on this mainstream media is right --
GORANI: Those are two commentators, by the way. They're not journalists working for news organizations. They're commentators and --
CORTES: Donald Deutsch is a host. No, you're wrong. Donald Deutsch is a host on MSNBC.
Look, I'm not wrong. My point is, you hear that he's a racist 24/7, nonstop, it's a fake news, false narrative. Unfortunately though, if you repeat a lie often enough, sometimes it has an effect. And I do think it's had an effect.
Certainly that Fox News poll that is shows that it has, I hope that we can persuade minorities that that is not remotely the truth. I know the president. I know it's not the truth.
And by the way, if he is a racist, as I often say, he's the worst racist in history because minorities are thriving in this country under the policies of President Trump, and that's what I'm most concerned about, not polls, but things like wages, security, opportunity, all of that is expanding massively for black and brown Americans under this president's leadership.
GORANI: And, Steve, I think it's the tweets go back to where you came from to those congresswomen. But we don't need to revisit that. They were called racist and rightfully so, because I believe people who read that --
CORTES: I disagree with those too --
GORANI: -- who are first generation immigrants -- yes, who are immigrants, who are first generation or even second generation immigrants. It hurt them to their core. This is the president of the United States, not the president of the party --
CORTES: I agree those words --
GORANI: -- and I think that for that reason, they felt extremely wounded and these are Americans.
CORTES: I agree that those were illogical. You don't tell Americans to go back. They're Americans, so I agree.
GORANI: Great. One quick last one. When you look at Donald Trump's Twitter feed and you see that he's tweeted 15 times about Baltimore but say zero times about what's happened in Moscow with the potential poisoning of a Kremlin critic. Do you think that his priorities are correct here?
CORTES: Absolutely. Look, he's not the president of Russia. He's the president of the United States of America.
[14:45:02] GORANI: Yes.
CORTES: And he is not obliged to comment on atrocities all over the world. There's also, by the way, oppression and atrocities going on right now in Hong Kong. I don't believe he's commented on that either. And I don't fault him for that.
You know, he is the president of the United States. As he often says, he's the president of Pittsburgh, not Paris. So I do not expect him to condemn every offensive action by every government in the world.
I do expect him and I think it's wonderful that he's shining a light on problems here. And again, too, not just shining a light on the problem but what is the solution, what are the next steps, how can we make life better for the children of Baltimore, for the children of Chicago.
And again, these are people who lived in democratic districts and democratic states who are unlikely to help him politically, but he's their president, nonetheless. And so I think that it's important that he message to them and about them that we have solutions.
And by the way, here's the great news, things are getting better. Hispanic wages right now are rising massively faster than white wages for the first time in a decade in this country. That's great news. I believe it's because of the benefits of the Trump boom of tax and regulatory relief. So
help isn't just on the way, help is here but we need more help.
GORANI: Yes. There is the huge economic expansion. Nobody is going to disagree with you on that.