On the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Newseum hosted Sens. Cory Booker and Mike Lee for the first interview of the “BuzzFeed Brews @ the Newseum” series. The discussion, which focused on criminal justice reform, was moderated by Tarini Parti, Capitol Hill reporter for BuzzFeed News.
Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, introduced the panel and explained the history of BuzzFeed Brews, a discussion series that began four years ago and originally convened leaders in bars to tackle tough issues in a relaxed atmosphere.
Lee, a Republican senator from Utah, and Booker, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, discussed the urgent need for change regarding minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders, reform of prison conditions, the disproportional targeting by law enforcement of African Americans and the need for Congress to act on stalled legislation.
The two senators also weighed in on Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem.
Booker said that while it is certainly Kaepernick’s constitutional right, he disagreed with his method. Nevertheless, Booker wants the conversation to continue about why Kaepernick is refusing to stand. “People seem to be more outraged over [Kaepernick] taking a knee than the killing of an unarmed black man,” he said.
Lee agreed that while Kaepernick has the right, he wouldn’t have chosen his course of action. “I think it’s disrespectful, but that is his right to choose to send that message in whatever way he deems appropriate,” he said.
Earlier in the evening, Booker pointed out the irony of the event’s name: “It’s really deliciously funny to me that it’s called ‘Brews,’ and you have two of the few United States senators that do not drink alcohol,” said Booker.
“Root beer,” chimed in Lee.
Listen to the audio on BuzzFeed News’ podcast, “No One Knows Anything.”