On the morning of the last Democratic presidential debate ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez insisted that the party remains committed to diversity despite no candidates of color taking the stage Tuesday night.
When pressed by CNN’s John Berman about there being no candidates of color among the six candidates set to take the stage, which former Gov. Deval Patrick took issue with in a Tuesday morning tweet, Perez insisted that the Democratic Party “set a remarkably inclusive and frankly low bar throughout the campaigns.”
“I’m proud of that,” Perez said, before boasting that “we did have the most diverse field in American history,” given how last month there were three women, two candidates of color and an openly gay candidate on the debate stage.
After arguing that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) suspended her campaign “not because of any criteria that the DNC set,” Perez said that he takes “a back seat to no one in my commitment to diversity and inclusion.” He defended the debate qualification criteria that the DNC set this month where candidates needed to reach 5 percent in four out of 23 polls.
“Now, let me give you a point of reference, four years ago you needed to average 5 percent in the five polls leading up to Iowa. So the bar was much higher in the past,” Perez said, pointing out that Rev. Al Sharpton, Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson would have surpassed the criteria in the past. “We have had a large field this year. As a result, we had sitting senators who weren’t able to make the debate stage.”
Perez went on to praise his former boss, Patrick, despite “polling at about 1 percent right now in the national polls,” as well as Cory Booker — who he says “may be out of the race, but he is not out of the fight” — before reiterating that the Democratic Party is fighting for communities of color.
“When you look at the issues that are confronting communities of color and you look at who has been fighting for you, the Democratic Party’s long track record of fighting for diversity and inclusion is something I’m very proud of,” Perez said.
Watch Perez’s remarks below:
Tom Perez responds to lack of candidate diversity in Democratic debate pic.twitter.com/RYfCgyZcHI
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) January 14, 2020