Cory Booker Reveals What He Was Thinking During That Viral Democratic Debate Side-Eye

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke (R) speaks as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) look on during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida.
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Senator Cory Booker went viral on Thursday after giving fellow 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke a serious side-eye during the first Democratic debate. Now, the New Jersey politician has revealed exactly what he was thinking during that moment.

Booker appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, where he talked with the host about the truth behind the look. He says that he wasn’t shocked because O’Rourke was so fluent in Spanish, as some people have speculated, but that he knew O’Rourke had “laid a gauntlet down.”

It all started when O’Rourke was asked a question about marginal tax rates during the Democratic debate. In response, the Texas politician started answering in English, but quickly shifted to Spanish for the rest of his answer.

As he gave his response, the camera panned over to Booker, who stood slack-jawed as he listened to the exchange. Of course, social media exploded, suggesting that Booker was shocked to hear his opponent speaking so fluently, as The Inquisitr reported.

But Booker told Cooper that he was shocked because now he knew he had to up his game.

“I just knew he had laid a gauntlet down,” Booker said. “And I was talking a little bit with [Julián] Castro. Both he and I knew, as people who can speak Spanish, that now we were gonna bring it as well.”

Booker took up the challenge during the debate when he answered a question from the moderator about what he would do during his first day in office if he was elected president by the voters. He responded in Spanish that he felt Donald Trump’s handling of immigrant children as “unacceptable” and promised to end what he believes are violations of the immigrants’ “human rights.”

Booker has talked previously about his Spanish abilities, saying that he spent some time in Ecuador in a Spanish language emersion program, though he said that these days his Spanish skills are more conversational. Still, he managed to respond in his second tongue during the debate.

Booker told Cooper that he felt like he needed to bring some Spanish to the stage because there were many people in the debate who speak second or third languages.

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“[T]here’s a lot of bilingual people, some even trilingual, in this race,” he said.

Booker became the first meme of the 2020 debates after his facial expression went viral, with shows like the official account for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee weighing in on the look.