Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas acknowledged that he’s benefited from “privileges,” as he responded to a question about being a white, male candidate in a diverse, crowded field of Democrats running for president in 2020.
“As a white man who has had privileges that others could not depend on, or take for granted, I’ve clearly had advantages over the course of my life,” O’Rourke told NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd during a campaign stop in Iowa on Saturday.
He said a “big part” of his campaign is “recognizing that and understanding that others have not — (and) doing everything I can to ensure that there is opportunity and the possibility for advancement and advantage for everyone.”
O’Rourke, who rose to national prominence with a strong but ultimately unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the 2018 elections, has faced some criticism about comments he made since announcing his White House candidacy last week on issues of race, gender and double standards ― especially with an unprecedented number of women vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.
On Friday, for example, he apologized for joking that his wife has been raising their three children “sometimes with my help.”
“Not only will I not say that again, but I’ll be more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege,” he said during a podcast taping in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Other comments from O’Rourke, like those in an interview with Vanity Fair published last week in which he said he was “born” to run for president, raised questions about how a woman candidate would be treated if she had made similar remarks.
“I wasn’t born to run. But I am running,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), another presidential candidate, said Sunday on “Meet the Press” when asked about O’Rourke’s comments.
O’Rourke spent the weekend campaigning in Iowa ― his first visit ever to the early caucus state ― in the aftermath of formally announcing his campaign in a video posted to his Twitter account. When asked by NBC on Saturday what makes him stand out from the rest of the pack, he spotlighted his experience in Congress representing a border district
“I also happen to be the only (presidential) candidate from the United States/Mexico border at a time that dominates so much of our national conversation and legislative efforts and the things that the president talks about,“ O’Rourke said, neglecting to mention two other Democratic contenders who hail from border states ― Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Julian Castro, a fellow Texan who’s the former mayor of San Antonio.
O’Rourke, a native of El Paso whose father was a prominent local political figure there, touted himself as the one candidate “who can talk about the profoundly positive impact that immigrants have had on our safety and our security, as well as our success and our strength” as a nation.