Libertarian Gary Johnson just became the first presidential candidate to say that he believes Donald Trump is a racist. Not that he said something racist, not that his campaign is fomenting racism, but that the man himself is a racist.
In an interview with The Hill on Monday, Johnson talked about Trump's attacks on the Indiana-born judge overseeing the Trump University fraud case. “The latest comments on the Hispanic judge—nothing short of racist,” Johnson said.
He then went a step further. When the interviewer asked Johnson whether he believed that Trump was himself a racist, Johnson replied, "Clearly."
That means Gary Johnson has now beaten both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to the punch in calling the Republican nominee exactly what he is. Clinton and Sanders have previously called Trump's ideas and statements "racist" but have stopped short of saying it about the man himself.
In February, Sanders accused Trump of being part of a "racist effort" to delegitimize President Obama by questioning his citizenship. Sanders had also accused Trump of wanting to divide America in ways that are "xenophobic and racist."
Just recently, Clinton called Trump's comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel a "racist attack."
But that is not the same as saying that Trump is himself a racist, as both Clinton and Sanders must be painfully aware. At a Univision/Washington Post debate in March, moderator Karen Tumulty asked both candidates pointedly whether Donald Trump was "a racist." Clinton and Sanders each demurred in their answers and declined to acknowledge the premise of the question.
Earlier Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan recently became the first member of the Republican leadership to use the word "racist" in the same sentence as Donald Trump, calling Trump's attacks on Judge Curiel "sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment."
Meanwhile Donald Trump escalates his racist and xenophobic attacks on Curiel. Either he or has campaign has suggested this week that he might also take issue with a Muslim or woman judge overseeing his case.