Presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) disavowed recent Holocaust comparisons to the southern border Thursday but made similar comparisons to the events of the early 20th century little more than a month ago.
At an Iowa campaign event, Booker compared the current crisis on the U.S.-Mexican border to the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust in June.
“What do you make of Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s comments that the detention centers at the border are concentration camps? Do you agree with that?” The Washington Post’s Robert Acosta asked during a live event.
“It’s language I would not use, but I have been to these facilities,” Booker said before pivoting from the question to talk about mass incarceration throughout the United States. Yet just last month Booker compared the current crisis on the U.S.-Mexican border to the atrocities of the Holocaust, according to footage from the Daily Caller.
“[Trump] wants to make us afraid of people wanting to come here, escaping terror, not remembering when we turned away other immigrants trying to escape terror,” Booker said of the ongoing immigration crisis. “There was a ship that came here during World War II with a bunch of folks trying to escape the Holocaust, and we turned it around where they got killed in the Holocaust.”
“The shame of that, you think we would learn our lesson about people coming here to seek asylum escaping terror,” the senator added.
The Daily Caller notes that Booker was likely referring to the M.S. St. Louis, a ship carrying more than 900 Jewish passengers fleeing Europe that was turned back from both the United States and Canada.
The comparisons between the current crisis at the southern border and the events of the 1930s and ’40s started with socialist U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during an Instagram Live video.
“The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border, and that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Since then, the 29-year-old freshman congresswoman has stuck to her claim with support from several other congressional Democrats despite a chorus of criticism from Jewish leaders and even others in her own party calling the comparisons inaccurate and offensive to Holocaust survivors and victims. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum even released a statement following Ocasio-Cortez’s comments condemning such statements.
“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary,” the Museum stated in June. “That position has repeatedly and unambigiously been made clear in the Museum’s official statement on the matter – a statement that is reiterated and reaffirmed now.”
The museum’s statement, however, also attracted criticism. Almost 150 scholars on the Holocaust sent an open letter to the museum urging its directors to rescind its statement on the matter earlier this month.
“The very core of Holocaust education is to alert the public to dangerous developments that facilitate human rights violations and pain and suffering; pointing to similarities across time and space is essential for this task,” the letter reads, published in The New York Times Review of Books. “The Museum’s decision to completely reject drawing any possible analogies to the Holocaust, or to the events leading up to it, is fundamentally ahistorical,” the authors added.
Booker’s Thursday flip-flop come as the senator struggles to garner enough support among Democrats to propel his candidacy from a long-shot bid to a genuine contender. According to Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of polls, Booker still remains in the top ten candidates, yet polls with an average of just below 2 percent support.
Booker did qualify for the second round of Democratic debates to be held in Detroit, Michigan at the end of the month.