Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres gave Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D., Texas) an opportunity Wednesday to discuss "new details" about his drunk driving arrest in 1998, although she declined to say what those ugly details were.
O'Rourke is running for Senate against Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and he has acknowledged since his first run for the House in 2012 a pair of arrests from the 1990s, one of them for driving while intoxicated in 1998. The Houston Chronicle reported on the seriousness of the offense last week via police reports it obtained: O'Rourke crashed into another car at a high speed and a witness told authorities he sought to flee the scene.
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Those details had not come to light in over a dozen profiles over the past two years of O'Rourke, who has excited national Democrats with large crowds and strong fundraising totals. DeGeneres noted the "new details" of the arrest in her question—the show's YouTube channel said he was "candid" in his response—but didn't tell the audience what they were.
"When you're in politics, they dig up every single thing they can on you, and so you have to know that things are going to come out," DeGeneres said, noting it happened when he was 26. "Recently, now, there are new details, and I just want you to be able to talk about that."
"Yeah," O'Rourke said. "Twenty years ago, I drove drunk. A terrible mistake. There's no explanation or justifying that."
He said he went on to form a business and raise a family with his wife, Amy, and he said his mistake didn't define him.
"I know to some degree that's a function of the fact that I'm a white man in this country," he said, noting it might have been harder for an African American with a similar transgression to advance in life. "I want to make sure that everyone has a second chance. That's a lesson that I take from this, and something that I want to use as a motivation to make things better for others who may have made mistakes in their lives."
O'Rourke has given similar answers about the arrest before, even writing an op-ed about his experience and tying it to his push for criminal justice reform.
DeGeneres then shifted to joking about O'Rourke's predisposition to sweating a great deal during his campaign across Texas.
DeGeneres is an outspoken progressive who said she loved Barack and Michelle Obama, although she's also said she's "not a political person in any way." She has frequently invited on Democratic politicians for friendly interviews over the years.