Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro recalls drinking from a "colored" water fountain at Woolworth’s

"My awakening on the race issue was when I was eight years old in a Woolworth's store in West Palm Beach"

Published July 7, 2020 7:28PM (EDT)

Peter Navaro (CNN)
Peter Navaro (CNN)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

When Peter Navarro, one of President Donald Trump's top economic advisers, appeared on CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday morning, July 7, he not only tried to put a rosy spin on Trump's response to the coronavirus surge in Florida and other Sun Belt states — Navarro also refused to criticize Trump's recent defense of Confederate symbols. But host John Berman didn't let him get away with it, grilling Navarro relentlessly. And  instead of saying anything critical of Trump, Navarro recalled his own experience with Jim Crow laws in the late 1950s.

Navarro, now 70, told Berman, "My awakening on the race issue was when I was eight years old in a Woolworth's store in West Palm Beach, Florida when I walked over and I took a drink from the colored water fountain because I wanted to see colored water. And this woman came up to me and just gently said, 'You can't, can't drink from that.' And I go, 'Why?' She says, 'That's for colored people.' It's like — I mean, I'm eight years old, and that didn't make sense to me . . . I'm a Californian; we don't see race out there."

Most of the interview was devoted to Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, and Navarro tried to promote hydroxychloroquine — which Trump has touted as a miracle drug for fighting COVID-19. But the drug's benefits against coronavirus are unproven, and health experts (including Dr. Anthony Fauci) have warned that it can have dangerous side effects. Nonetheless, Navarro doubled down on his support of hydroxychloroquine as a possible COVID-19 treatment, telling Berman, "It will save lives."

During the interview, Berman demanded to know why the number of new COVID-19 infections is "rising" in the U.S. even though infection rates have decreased in France, Italy, Germany, South Korea and other countries. "What is unique about the United States, where we're seeing the increase?," the CNN host asked.

Navarro was evasive, telling Berman, "That's not my lane to answer that question" and echoing President Donald Trump's rhetoric about COVID-19 being a "China virus."

Trump's economic adviser told Berman that if the U.S. "locks down too hard," it will hurt the country economically. But Berman noted that states that reopened non-essential businesses too soon are now seeing COVID-19 surges.

Berman went on to grill Navarro about Trump's refusal to wear a mask, and Navarro complained that members of the mainstream media have "beat that one to death." Berman, however, responded that prominent Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are now encouraging mask wearing — to which Navarro responded, "I'm not going to go there."

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