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Cory Booker responds to fallout from 'Meet the Press'

Newark Mayor Cory Booker appeared on our show tonight, in his first interview since saying on Meet the Press that negative campaigning by President Obama and Mitt Romney was "nauseating"

A rush transcript of key bits from his conversation with Rachel follows.

On deciding to talk about the story:

CORY BOOKER: I was doing no interviews, and it wasn't until the GOP went across that line that I said forget it I've had all I can stand and I can stand no more, so thank you for giving me a chance to be on tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW: What is the line that they crossed that made you feel that way? What is it about the way they have reacted to this that made you change your mind about talking about this issue again?
BOOKER: Anybody who watched the entire Meet the Press, not only was I defending Obama's positions on numerous issues, but I also talked about super PAC money and the negative campaigning and my outrage and really my frustration was about the cynical negative campaigning, the manipulating of the truth and so here they are plucking sound bites out of that interview, to manipulate them in a cynical manner to use them for their own purposes, and that slogan is really what had me, and basically my entire staff, really fit to be tied.

On staying active in the Obama re-election campaign:

BOOKER: As far as where my heart is right now I am very upset that I am being used by the GOP this way and it's, uh, while I thought today I was going to be quiet, I've been pushed so far that you are going to hear a lot from me to the extent possible and to the extent that President Obama and his campaign want to hear from me.

On Republicans saying he has been a victim of the Obama campaign and that he was forced by national Democrats to issue clarifying remarks:

BOOKER: For anybody that knows me and really knows my career, I've been an independent Democrat for a long time, standing up on issues, and actually have been comfortable to say I disagree with the president before on marriage equality, and now he stands for that issue. But the reality is that the Barack Obama team in the White House and their political team have been good to me for many, many years. I've worked with them early in the primaries in the last election. They have never pressure me to do anything. They've done but encourage me. And in this case in particular, I certainly did talk with campaign officials, but they didn't force me to do anything. They had good conversations with me.

And after having conversations with them, especially after hearing the President's remarks on this issue where he was not condemning all of private equity, he was not condemning any particular firms, he was focusing in on a guy who's bragging about his job creation record -- to me, I think that's fair game. All of those things made me say, you know what? I need to go on and clarify because obviously I did things in the Meet the Press interview, as I told you, that did not land the points that I was trying to make and in some ways, you know, frustratingly, I think I conflated the attacks that the Republicans were making with Jeremiah Wright with some of the attacks on the left, and those can't even be equated. The noxious nature of some of the attacks that we've seen to be going on our president, where you even poll many in the GOP who still believe he's a secret Muslim and these other thing. It's gotten so ridiculous, you can't even equate the negativity on the right with what's happening by some sectors in the left.

So, at this point, I'm grateful for the president, who came out today and said very kind words to me. Many more cynical folks in his camp probably wanted the president to go on the attack on me. God bless him because I think his team listened to the totality of what I was doing, heard me defend the president on Meet the Press on health care, heard me defend him on job creation, heard me defend him on doing tax reform to actually help people in my community in Newark, New Jersey. And it's a partnership I'm going to continue to have no matter what role they want me to play. I play it proactively, not reactively, to them.

The full transcript of the interview is posted here.