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Beto O'Rourke says his Vanity Fair campaign rollout was a mistake

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 14, 2019

Former congressman Beto O'Rourke on Tuesday acknowledged that the Vanity Fair cover declaring his candidacy was a misstep, telling hosts of The View that it was "the perception of privilege."

O'Rourke, in the middle of a media blitz this week, hasn't been able to shake off questions about the magazine cover published in March -- "Beto's CHOICE: I want to be in it. Man I'm just born to be in it -- and has been forced to acknowledge being what he called, "a white man who's had a privilege in my life."

During O'Rourke's first daytime interview as a 2020 presidential candidate, The View host Meghan McCain asked if he felt he could get away with more because he is a man and if he had any regrets about the magazine cover

"There are things that I have been privileged to do in my life that others cannot," O'Rourke replied. "And I think the more that I travel and listen to people and listen from them, the clearer that becomes to me."

The acknowledgment comes as O'Rourke, after an early burst of momentum, deals with middling polling numbers in a crowded field of Democratic candidates seeking to take on President Donald Trump next year.

The Texas Democrat, whose national profile raised during his failed 2018 Senate bid against Republican Ted Cruz, has now been officially campaigning on the 2020 trail for two months. And throughout that time, he's had to answer for the Vanity Fair cover story.

Three days after announcing his presidential bid, O'Rourke expressed regret over the article.

"I saw the cover with that quote 'born to run' or 'born to do this' and I was like, man, I hope I didn't say that," he said while talking to reporters in Wisconsin. "I think the context of that, which makes sense and is the way that I feel is that I'm born to serve. I'm born to try to help bring people together."

He reiterated that same point in an interview with PBS last week.

The magazine cover isn't the only misstep he has acknowledged. During his first speech as a 2020 candidate in Keokuk, Iowa, O'Rourke made controversial comments about "sometimes" helping his wife, Amy, raise their three children.

The next day, during a podcast taping, he called the backlash over those comments "absolutely valid" and "constructive criticism.

"It has already made me a better candidate," O'Rourke said. "Not only will I not say that again, but I'll be much more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege. Absolutely undeniable."

Until now, O'Rourke has spent the majority of his campaign talking to voters in town halls and house parties in early voting states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. O'Rourke's campaign is actively courting African-American voters in South Carolina, a state where 61% of the 2016 Democratic primary electorate was black voters.

He isn't acknowledging that this week is a relaunch of his campaign, but is giving more national media outlets attention and time. This week, he flew into New York for an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and gave his first daytime interview with The View on ABC. Next week, he will headline a town hall with CNN .

During his interview on MSNBC, he highlighted his recently released policy proposal for climate change to guarantee net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and to invest $5 billion in vulnerable communities.

More attention in the media, the campaign hopes, will bring in more dollars, according to a senior adviser with O'Rourke's campaign.

Before his MSNBC interview Monday night, O'Rourke attended a fundraiser with donors, an event the campaign streamed live on Facebook. His campaign did not release information about how much money he raised.

O'Rourke raised $6.1 million on the first day of his campaign, but had only raised $9.4 million by the end of the first quarter two weeks later.

In an email sent by his campaign Tuesday morning, Team Beto shared a video clip from the Maddow interview, highlighting O'Rourke saying, "Doesn't matter how blue, we're not going to write you off. Everyone's important. Everyone counts."