CJ Pearson was once the darling of the right wing, known for his attacks on President Barack Obama
But now the 13 year old says Bernie Sanders will best address racial issues, poverty and police brutality
Two weeks after renouncing the conservative movement, teen Internet phenom CJ Pearson has swung to the opposite side of the political spectrum and is endorsing Bernie Sanders for president.
The 13-year-old, whose past attacks on President Barack Obama have gone viral on YouTube, told CNN that he has come to believe Sanders is the best candidate to address racial issues, police brutality and poverty.
“This election will make a pivotal difference in the future of our nation. If it takes changing your mind to make the right choice as to who should lead our country, I am willing to do it. Screw the optics,” Pearson, the former chairman of Teens for Ted Cruz, told CNN.
“People are struggling in America. We need the right man in the White House. And in my opinion, that man is Senator Bernie Sanders.”
Pearson, who lives in Georgia, has become something of a viral star – his YouTube channel has received more than 5 million views, he has 37,000 followers on Twitter, and 100,000 likes on his Facebook page.
Pearson, an African-American who once referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as “domestic terrorists,” said he bolted the conservative movement due to its “lack of concern over racial discrimination in this country.”
He also said the video of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by a police officer in Chicago educated him on what he called the prevalence of “systemic racism” in America.
“Systemic racism is real. Police brutality is real. Youth unemployment is real. Income inequality is real. Poverty in the richest country in the world is real,” Pearson said. “There is only one candidate that has shown enough courage to accept these issues as a painful reality and has released plans to tackle every single one of them. That candidate, that courageous trailblazer, is Bernie Sanders. That’s how I made my decision.”
Pearson, whose personal website features endorsements from conservative leaders such as Rand Paul and Allen West, said his mentors weren’t pleased with his sudden political aboutface.
“They weren’t happy, but honestly, I didn’t expect them to be. I have to be my own person. I have to stand on my own two feet,” said Pearson, who plans to continue his social media activism.
“My activism is centered around fighting to give young people a voice in their government and in the political arena,” said Pearson, executive director of Young Georgians of Government. “With President Sanders, young people will have that voice. So, in my opinion, I’m doing exactly what I set out to do at the beginning of my political career.”
In September, Pearson was accused of falsely claiming that Obama’s Twitter account had blocked him. Pearson admits he made a mistake.