MSNBC host Chris Hayes challenged Newark, N.J. mayor and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Cory Booker about his sexuality on Thursday.
Booker pushed back — he refused to affirm whether he was gay or straight, but by said it was a ridiculous question and that it was irrelevant to evaluating his abilities as a U.S. Senator.
“Well, let me say first of all, this is the ridiculousness of this point which is — the question should not be whether you’re gay or straight, but question should be, why the heck are you asking the question in the first place?” Booker said. “It doesn’t make a whit of difference what kind of senator I’m going to be or not. And so, what I’m simply saying right now is we live in a nation of tragic injustice, where we have said that there’s going to be a class of Americans that are going to get second-class citizenship just because of who they choose to love and the rest of us Americans are going to enjoy full citizenship rights.”
“And these are germane issues to how I’m going to perform as a senator,” he continued. “Getting back to me — this is what I find comical: My local press, I was talking to a local reporter who has been covering me for seven years and saying there’s more evidence including your protestations of what your sexual orientation is, that’s out there already, that’s on the record, as I said to the reporter. And he and I were talking — why is this coming up yet again of something that has been affirmed and talked about a lot? And let me tell you why. You know, again, my opponent in this race is going to try to really replicate the worst of our national politics where we make a race about individuals and not the issues.”
Nonetheless, Hayes insisted it was important, particularly from a left-of-center perspective. Booker said he had already affirmed his sexual orientation and that one’s manhood should not be defined by sexual preference.
“What I’m trying to say to you is I have affirmed my sexual orientation numerous times over the years,” Booker said. “People in my local press world know what that is. At this point right now — in some ways the fact that you and I are having this conversation might be a little more frustrating, but the reality is the point I’m getting a chance to make right now and I really, really want to drive this home — is that we need to stop in America talking about anybody in a public realm besides what is important — the content of their character, the quality of their ideas, the courage within their hearts to serve others. That’s what’s important.”
“And so here we have an opponent that is trying to say godawful things,” he continued. “I mean, literally saying, I believe a guy should be a guy. Almost like saying you are not a man, that you’re not a man if you’re gay. I mean, that is so extreme. Let’s shine lights on this for a second and understand that my father taught me what manhood is about. And it’s not about whether you play football or enjoyed badminton. Being a man is about love. About kindness to others. About standing up for what’s right. About doing what’s important to do in the unfinished business of America. So, you know, again, my sexuality is not an issue right now, especially because it’s been talked about by me for years before we get into a campaign that suddenly this issue is brought up again because of the behavior of my opponent.”