Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist blasted the Republican party Tuesday, accusing them of going “off a cliff” and implying that some within the party had a racially-motivated bias against President Barack Obama.
“They’re perceived now as being anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos Tuesday while discussing his decision to leave the GOP in 2010.
Ramos pushed back, insisting Crist left the party because he was going to lose to Marco Rubio in the 2010 primary for an open U.S. Senate seat.
“No, I left the Republican party because Republican leadership went off the cliff,” he said. “They’re so hard right now they won’t cooperate with the president on anything.”
“It was because I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president. I’ll just go there.” he continued when pressed again.
“Because I was a Republican, and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me,” he said. “As I told you before, my mother and father taught my three sisters and me to treat everybody well – we’re all children of God – and I saw how the party, some of them, were treating the African-American president, and I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Crist left the Republican party to run as an independent in 2010. He lost a three way race for the Senate seat won by Marco Rubio, went on to formally join the Democratic party in 2012. He is challenging Gov. Rick Scott for his old job this year.
Ramos also pushed Crist on for changing his position on in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants, an issue both he and Scott now support after once opposing it. Crist insisted his prior opposition was driven by his desire to fit in with his party.
“I was a Republican, and Republicans didn’t like it,” he said. “I really felt like a round peg in a square hole, so, you know, would try to be a good team player, and it wasn’t always comfortable for me.”
“But now that I’ve been liberated as a Democrat my true soul is seen, and I couldn’t be happier about that,” he added.
Crist has spoken at length about his decision leave the GOP in the past, and even wrote a book about it, but has rarely focused on the racial issues that drove him from the party.