Cory Booker Curses During Live CNN Debate

By Zachary Stieber

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) used a phrase on July 31 that President Donald Trump was alleged, but never verified, to have used that set off a media and political firestorm.

Booker was speaking in Detroit during the second night of CNN’s Democratic presidential candidate debates.

Trump was accused in January 2018 of referring to some nations as “[expletive] countries” during a closed meeting.

The alleged remark, which Trump was never confirmed to have made, received a widespread backlash, particularly from Democratic lawmakers.

Booker was lighting into former vice president Joe Biden after the former Delaware senator declined to discuss conversations he and President Barack Obama had over deportations of illegal immigrants.

“Mr. Vice President, you can’t have it both ways,” Booker said. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”

“This really irks me, because I heard the vice president say that if you’ve got a Ph.D. you can come right into this country,” Booker continued.

“Well that’s playing into what the Republicans want, to pit some immigrants against other immigrants, some are from [expletive] countries, and some are from worthy countries.”

Booker’s expletive was not censored during the live debate. His comments prompted an ovation from the crowd at Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) (L-R), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) , former tech executive Andrew Yang, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio during the Democratic Presidential Debate in Detroit, Michigan at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Biden Faces Other Attacks

Other candidates also attacked Biden, some at the behest of CNN’s moderators.

Biden, the frontrunner, fought back.

Striking a sharper and more aggressive tone, he tangled with rival Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) over healthcare, taking up an growing fight that has split the Democratic Party and dominated the first debate on Tuesday.

He ridiculed Harris’s contention that her recently unveiled healthcare plan would not require a middle-class tax increase or the elimination of private insurance plans. “You can’t beat President Trump with double-talk on this plan,” Biden told Harris. “The plan, no matter how you cut it, costs $3 trillion. It will require middle-class taxes to go up, not down. Thirdly, it will eliminate employer-based insurance.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden listens as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit on July 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Harris rejected Biden’s description as “simply inaccurate” and ripped into his proposal to build on former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare, and include a government-run option, saying it would leave millions uninsured.

“In 2019 in America for a Democrat to be running for president with a plan that does not cover everyone, I think is without excuse,” said Harris.

Biden called criticism of his plan “a bunch of malarkey.”

Many top Democratic contenders have made Medicare for All one of their defining issues, with some saying they’d completely take away private insurance.

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, left, speaks as Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), center, and former Vice President Joe Biden listen during the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre in Detroit on July 31, 2019. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In an exchange with Julian Castro, the former housing secretary under Obama, Biden criticized Castro’s plan to decriminalize illegal border crossings.

“If you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime,” said Biden, who was interrupted by protesters shouting about deportations under the Obama administration.

Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, retorted, “It looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t.”

Reuters contributed to this report.