Tapper to Senator: If Trump's Immigration View Is 'Racist,' Were You Once Racist?

When Republicans run for president, the dominant media press them to moderate their views and suggest that the conservatives who vote in the primaries will ruin Republican chances in the general election. When Democrats run for president, the media press them to apologize for their views being too centrist and suggest they need to move to the Left.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is facing a series of interviewers pressing her to account for being "too conservative" on immigration when she was in the House of Representatives. It happened on ABC Sunday, and it happened on CNN's State of the Union. Jake Tapper pressed her from the Left, but at least put a Trump needle in there: 


TAPPER: All right. You have said Trump's immigration positions are racist. That's the word you used, racist. Now, as you know, you were more conservative early on in your career on immigration. CNN's KFILE [Andrew Kaczynski] is out with a new report this week on your 2008 campaign Web site and a mailer sent from your congressional office back then, a long time ago, but still in your -- in your public life.

Take a look. You said you were a -- quote -- "firm opponent" of government -- quote -- "amnesty to illegal aliens" -- unquote. You said English should be -- quote -- "the official language of the United States." You called for expediting deportation of undocumented immigrants. [Horrors!] I know you have very different positions today.


TAPPER: But, let me ask you, if Trump's immigration positions are racist, were they racist when you held some of those positions as well?

GILLIBRAND: They certainly weren't empathetic, and they weren't kind, and I did not think about suffering in other people's lives. 

The senator talked about how she learned "empathy" from Rep. Nydia Velazquez when she represented the entire state of New York, and not just apparently "racist" constituents in upstate New York. "I realized things I said were wrong. I was not caring about others," she said. "I was not fighting for other people's kids the same way I was fighting for my own."

Tapper came around again: "So, what's the difference, though, just help me understand, between your previous positions, which you characterize as wrong and not empathetic, and President Trump's positions today that you call racist?" She gave the CNN-pleasing answer: "So, what President Trump is doing is creating fear and division and a darkness across this country that I have never seen before."

Tapper also asked that since she came out for driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, did she support them voting in local elections. She said no -- which may soon become "too conservative" among the Democrats. Tapper also asked about powerful Democrats who are upset she spoke out against Al Franken's sexual harassment.

Like ABC's Martha Raddatz, Tapper did not ask Gillibrand about participating in and supporting the Women's March, despite the anti-Semitism of its leaders. 

PS: MSNBC host Rachel Maddow gently chatted with Gillibrand on Wednesday on her "evolution" in Democratic politics and her past views on immigration. Maddow tried to turn her "evolution" into a positive thing: 

MADDOW: Let me ask you about immigration as well. I was struck. You were asked about some of these same dynamics, some of these same changes over the course of your career in an interview with 60 Minutes not long ago, and you essentially said that you were embarrassed about your previous position --


MADDOW: -- on immigration. Tell me about that.

GILLIBRAND: Well, I don`t think it was driven from my heart. I was callous to the suffering of families who want to be with their loved ones, people who want to be reunited with their families. I recognize, as we all do, that immigration and diversity is our strength as a country. It`s always driven our economy. It`s the American story.

And so, looking back, I just -- I really regretted that I didn`t look beyond my district and talk about why this is an important part of the United States story and why it`s an important part of our strength.

MADDOW: Coming from -- having changed positions on issues like that, which are so emotive and which are so viscerally felt by so many people, I wonder if -- I mean, obviously, in a Democratic primary, you`re going to have to give explanations like this and you`re going to have the talk from the heart --


MADDOW: -- about why you changed your mind on things like that. But I wonder if it also having been in a different position on those issues, if it gives you a way to sort of bridge some of these divides that we`ve got between people who have almost a theological division, you`re either pro- gun or anti-gun --


MADDOW: -- you`re either pro-immigrant or anti-immigrant. Because you`ve gone through that transformation yourself, does it give you way to talk to people who might be more conservative on these issues now?

GILLIBRAND: Surely. And I think it all starts with listening, because you can find common ground with anybody on any issue.



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