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Other Democratic 2020 Candidates Are Not Happy With Biden’s Segregation Comments

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden said that “at least there was some civility” while working with racist senators in the 1970s.
  • Multiple Democrats condemned Biden’s comments, calling for him to apologize and evolve.
  • Biden’s comments link to past issues where he supported segregationists and their agenda.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s comments that “at least there was some civility” during his time working with segregationist senators in the 1970s prompted backlash from other 2020 Democratic presidential nominees.

Biden talked about his time working with senators who opposed desegregation and civil rights in the 1970s during a fundraising event in New York Tuesday. He mentioned Mississippi Sen. James Eastland and Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge and suggested that working with people who were racist was more productive than how things currently worked.

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said Tuesday according to CNN. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”
“Well guess what? At least there was some civility,” Biden said. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Biden out for his remarks on Wednesday morning.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’” Booker said in a statement according to CNN. “Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity.”

“Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone,” Booker’s statement continued. “I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together.”

De Blasio echoed similar criticism, calling on Biden to apologize and evolve on Twitter Wednesday. De Blasio also said that Biden is “out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party.”

“Evoking an avowed segregationist is not the best way to make the point that we need to work together and is insensitive; we need to learn from history but we also need to be aggressive in dismantling structural racism that exists today,” former Maryland Rep. John Delaney said according to CNN.

Connie Schultz, a journalist and wife of Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, tweeted that “if you want to boast about your relationship with a racist, you are not who we need to succeed the racist in the White House.”

Biden’s advisors have warned him not to use someone like Eastland as a person he could work with even with disagreements, two people close to the matter told CNN Wednesday. Biden’s intent in telling the story, which he has shared many times, was to show that he could work together with people that he disagreed with, a senior advisor said according to CNN.

Biden has tried to get support from black voters as the former VP to America’s first black president Barack Obama. However, his history may prevent him from doing so, CNN reported. Biden has praised segregation supporters in the Senate in the past and advocated for the 1994 crime bill, which was controversial because it supported mass incarceration.

In addition, Biden often tried to get the support of segregationist senators from the South in the 1970s and 1980s. He also supported former South Carolina Rep. Sen. Strom Thurmond, one of the biggest supporters of segregation ever, saying that he had “moved to the good side” as time went on, CNN reported.

Biden also was not for desegregating schools, shown in letters where he tried to recruit Eastland for backing. Eastland made multiple statements about blacks being an “inferior race.”

“You’d get up there and argue like the devil with them [Democratic segregationists], and then you’d go down and have lunch or dinner together,” Biden said at another event to a mostly black audience. “We were divided on issues, but the political system worked.”

Biden has not apologized for his comments despite multiple Democrats calling for him to do so.

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