Julián Castro all but told Fox News on Thursday that he wasn’t there to talk about his rivals and couldn’t understand why the network is still obsessed with Hillary Clinton in 2019.
At an hourlong town hall in Tempe, Ariz., with Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary and San Antonio mayor declined to comment on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s likening people who are against abortion to racists or anti-Semites, or former Vice President Joe Biden’s recent reversal on the Hyde Amendment, which essentially banned publicly funded abortions.
Story Continued Below
“I don’t want to distract right now by talking about other candidates when the fact is that I need to introduce myself to a lot of people who don’t know who I am yet in this Democratic primary,” Castro said. “And so I don’t want them to know who Joe Biden is and what he stands for with this airtime. I want them to know what Julián Castro believes and what he thinks.”
Baier and MacCallum opened the forum by asking Castro how President Donald Trump’s openness to accepting opposition research from a foreign government without alerting the FBI was different from the so-called Steele dossier — information on Trump compiled by a British former intelligence officer in 2016 and funded in part by Democrats.
Castro focused on Trump’s “unprecedented” willingness to accept foreign help in an election. But Baier wasn’t satisfied. He followed up, quoting Clinton’s former press secretary telling The Washington Post he “would have had no problem passing it along or urging reporters to look into” the dossier if he had received it before the general election.
“I don’t understand why on this network and in so many, you know, conservative circles, people are still talking about Hillary Clinton,” Castro said. “Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot. Those of us who are running are on the ballot, and I can tell you that those of us who are running want to focus on the issues that are important to Americans and their families.”
Despite appearing on a conservative network, Castro embraced his “People First” immigration plan and policing reform, which would hold officers accountable and create more transparency.
“Why did @JulianCastro come to AZ for a FOX town hall?” tweeted Jennifer Fiore, his senior adviser. “He’s not afraid to talk about Trump’s most important issue in a historically red border state. Let’s push back against this Republican domination of an American issue.”
Castro said the only crisis at the southern border with Mexico was one of leadership, noting that “when he came into office, Donald Trump said that he was gonna solve this, as he put it, this immigration problem, and he’s completely failed.”
In talking about the need for policing reform, Castro contrasted the arrest of Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who killed nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., with police-involved fatal shootings of people of color, rattling off names like Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Jason Pero, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Pamela Turner and Tempe’s Antonio Arce.
“Too oftentimes, we have seen police mistreat especially young men of color, a lot of young black men. How many videos do we have to watch?” he asked. “I don’t care what your politics is. … We’re in an age of technology where you see the video now. How many of these videos do you have to watch before we understand that even though we have some great police officers … this is not a problem of a few bad apples? The system itself is broken, and we need to fix it.”
Castro said he agreed with Thursday’s recommendation by the Office of Special Counsel that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act. Castro was found to be in violation of it at HUD for his remarks about Clinton in 2016, but suggested the difference was that he was a one-time offender who owned up to his mistake while Conway has not held herself accountable for her multiple violations.
But he saved his biggest criticism for Trump, whom he blamed for ruining relationships with allies. “I mean, who gets in a fight with Canada?” Castro asked, prompting some laughter from the audience. “Somehow, this president did.”
Ultimately, he said, “a few years from now — whether it’s 10 years from now, 20 years from now — we’re gonna look back on this as Americans, not Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives, and say, ‘What in the hell was wrong with that president?’”