Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) surprised his interviewer Friday, criticizing a fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate minutes after declining to criticize another.
Jonathan Karl of ABC News asked Booker about former Vice President Joe Biden's record, noting Biden had supported the Iraq War and the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Progressive politicians now frequently oppose both.
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"Is that the record of a Democratic standard-bearer?" Karl asked.
Speaking in South Carolina, the junior senator from New Jersey made a point of not taking on the primary's clear frontrunner.
"Joe Biden's going to have to defend his record and talk about what he stands for," he said. "I plan on focusing on my record."
Booker trails Biden by 42 points in South Carolina, according to the latest state poll. Karl asked whether Booker would approach all candidates in the same manner, noting a "reluctance to engage, to criticize."
"I can't campaign in a divisive way," Booker replied in agreement.
Karl later turned to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and her own record. Karl asked Booker about Warren's recent proposal to break up some of the country's largest technology companies, like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
Booker first disagreed with her view as a matter of policy.
"I don't think that a president should be," Booker said, at least not "without process."
The question follows last week's op-ed from Mark Zuckerberg's college roommate, Chris Hughes, calling for regulators to break up Facebook. Hughes played a "customer service" role in the company. Booker explained that, policy aside, Warren's behavior was reminiscent of President Donald Trump's.
"That sounds more like a Donald Trump thing," Booker said, "to say, ‘I'm gonna break up you guys.'"
Karl jumped in, surprised.
"You just compared Elizabeth Warren to Donald Trump!" Karl interjected.
"I most certainly did not. She is my friend," Booker replied.
"But she's the one that saying that," Karl said.
"Let her discuss and debate her position," Booker said in his defense. "I am telling you right now we do not need a president that is going to use their own personal beliefs and tell you which companies we should break up."
After the interview, Booker delivered a commencement address at South Carolina State University.
"Stay faithful in kindness because we've come this far by faith," he told students.