Texas congressman and Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke visited Ellen for Wednesday’s episode, with the former punk rock bassist discussing his Election Day battle against Ted Cruz, his stance on the NFL players’ anthem protests and Donald Trump’s upcoming trip to Texas, where the president will voice his support for his frequent punching bag Cruz.
“First of all, we welcome the president to Texas and we are glad that he’s coming,” O’Rourke told Ellen DeGeneres. “Texas is the most diverse state in the country. It’s the defining immigrant story and experience. We should, Republicans and Democrats together, be able to lead the way. Not only to stop taking kids from parents, not only to free dreamers from the fear of deportation and make them U.S. citizens on that same day, but to lead in a bold, ambitious way that makes the most out of all of us including those that choose to be here.”
DeGeneres told O’Rourke that she became aware of the Democrat and his Senate hopes following his response to a question regarding NFL players kneeling during the national anthem; the corresponding video went viral with over 44 million views and prompted Ellen to immediately invite O’Rourke on the program.
DeGeneres said of O’Rourke’s response, “Just to answer that and then to go on and say everything you said was just beautiful.”
“We visited every single one of the 254 counties of Texas and then this question comes up about kneeling at these NFL games to call attention to the deaths and the shootings of unarmed black men in this country,” O’Rourke said. “And so, I just gave the answer that was on my mind. Had never been asked the question before. Tried to be honest and that’s what came out. And, I hope, if nothing else, we’re able to give the people of Texas our honesty and have the courage of our convictions on the issues that matter most.”
O’Rourke also used the Ellen visit to confront his DUI over 20 years ago, a charge that Cruz has leaned on frequently in the lead-up to Election Day.
“Twenty years ago I drove drunk… a terrible mistake. There’s no explanation or justifying that. Since then, I have gone on with friends to start a business, with Amy to raise a family, serving my community in the United States congress. And, in many ways, that mistake did not define me. I was able to go on and do these things,” O’Rourke said.
“But I know to some degree, that’s a function of the fact that I’m a white man in this country. I know that if I were African American, if I had been arrested with marijuana, it might be very hard for me to then get a job. I’d have to check a box on an application form; I couldn’t finance my student loans. That might very well narrow my choices and options in life. As it does for so many in a country that has the largest prison population on the face of the planet. One that is disproportionately brown and black. I want to make sure that everyone has a second chance. That’s a lesson that I take in this and something I want to use as motivation to make things better for others who may have made mistakes in their lives.”
O’Rourke also recently spoke to Rolling Stone about his old band Foss with future Mars Volta rocker Cedric Bixler-Zavala.