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"Your Silence and Amnesia Is Complicity": Booker Blasts Nielsen for "Shithole" Memory Failure

"When the commander in chief speaks or refuses to speak, those words don't just dissipate like mist in the air. They fester. They become poison. They give license to bigotry and hate in our country."

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen arrives for a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. RIchard Durbin Durbin both questioned Nielsen about derogatory language reportedly used by U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting last week on immigration. Nielsen said 'I did not hear that word used', when asked about the word 'shithole'. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

"Your silence and your amnesia is complicity," Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen during an exchange while she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Booker's charge followed testimony Neilsen gave under oath during earlier questions by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in which she denied hearing Trump use the phrase "shitholes nations" while also saying she could not remember the exact kind of "tough language" the president did use during a meeting in the Oval Office last week.

Booker admitted to Nielseon that he "had tears of rage" and was "seething when anger" when he first learned that Trump had made those remarks at the meeting she also attended. "And for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss the questions of my colleagues, with tens of millions Americans hurting right now because they're worried about what happened in the White House," Booker continued. "When the commander in chief speaks or refuses to speak, those words don't just dissipate like mist in the air. They fester. They become poison. They give license to bigotry and hate in our country."

Unsatisfied and disappointed with the response given to Durbin, Booker suggested to Nielsen that those who offer cover to those speaking bigoted and racist words are helping to perpetuate a hatred that has a long and destructive history. "When ignorance and bigotry is allied with power," said Booker,  "it's a dangerous force in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity."

Watch the exchange:

The kind of complicity contained in Neilsen's testimony, Booker told reporters after leaving the hearing room, is actually worse than the original racist and vulgar term used by the president.

 

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