Sen. Cory Booker (D., NJ) said he is not a socialist during an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews that aired on Monday.
"Where are you on this discussion about about socialism?" Matthews asked. "This country has existed as you know with mixed capitalism. That's how it works. We free markets, but we also have a social safety net and we also have anti-trust and things like that. It's always been a mix of capitalism and socialism. What's wrong with being for capitalism?"
"I am for capitalism, and I'm tired of companies engaging in socialism," Booker responded.
After Matthews accused him of offering a rhetorical flourish as an answer, Booker cited pollution in the Passaic River to argue his point.
"It's true. I live in jersey. I live in Jersey. The Passaic River is polluted because they outsource their costs into my river. We now have a super fund site from corporations pushing out their costs onto the public," Booker said.
"I'm a capitalist," Booker continued. "Monopolies are not capitalism. If I asked people in this diner to raise their hands, how many people want to start businesses, you might get half of the people. Small businesses are the ones creating jobs in this country. We have a system designed towards the biggest corporations. We just gave corporate tax breaks to folks that were not even paying the full effective tax rate. So we don't have competition anymore."
"Okay, how about the word socialist, where are you on that? Are you a socialist?" Matthews pressed.
"I am not a socialist," Booker said.
Democratic candidates' views of capitalism has been a key question early in the 2020 election cycle. A Gallup poll from last summer found 57 percent of Democrats held a positive view of socialism, while only 47 percent viewed capitalism positively.
Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who recently entered the presidential race, called himself a capitalist only after being given several opportunities to say so last week. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has also insisted she is a capitalist.