Lemon raises Trump's 'racist rhetoric' to candidates after president's criticism

Lemon raises Trump's 'racist rhetoric' to candidates after president's criticism
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CNN anchor Don LemonDon Carlton LemonConservatives slam Beto O'Rourke over threat to tax-exempt status for religious organizations CNN LGBTQ town hall interrupted by protesters O'Rourke: Religious institutions should lose tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage MORE on Wednesday pressed Democratic presidential candidates on how they would address racial tensions in the country by noting the issue has been escalated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE's "racist rhetoric."

Lemon asked multiple candidates about the topic hours after Trump bashed the debate moderator for bringing the president into questions about race a night earlier.

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"Why are you the best candidate to heal the racial divide that exists in this country today, which has been stoked by the president’s racist rhetoric," Lemon asked Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa 2020 Democrats demand action on guns after Santa Clarita shooting Biden, Buttigieg condemn rocket attacks on Israel MORE (D-Colo.).

Lemon asked former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (D) how he would help struggling cities "after the president’s racist tweets attacking Baltimore and Congressman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMaya Rockeymoore Cummings reports surgery was a success, will return to campaign trail The Hill's Morning Report — Public impeachment drama resumes today Maloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump MORE."

"First of all the president is a racist and that was just one more example of it," Castro responded, before explaining he would invest in education opportunities for kids in those communities.

Trump took issue with Lemon's questioning a night earlier, when the moderator said the president "is pursuing a reelection strategy based in part, on racial division."

"CNN’s Don Lemon, the dumbest man on television, insinuated last night while asking a debate ‘question’ that I was a racist, when in fact I am ‘the least racist person in the world,'" Trump tweeted. "Perhaps someone should explain to Don that he is supposed to be neutral, unbiased & fair or is he too dumb (stupid) to understand that."

Lawmakers condemned Trump's comments as racist earlier this month after he told four congresswomen of color to "go back" to their countries. All four are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the country.

The president again drew allegations of racism over the weekend by repeatedly attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) and the majority-black Maryland district he represents.