Biden Attempts Damage Control Amid Growing Backlash Over Work with Segregationists

Joe Biden, the apparent frontrunner among Democrats heading into the 2020 election is struggling to address mounting backlash over remarks made about previously working with Senators in favor of segregation during his past political career.

After Biden seemingly reminisced fondly of his work, tensions between he and fellow presidential hopeful Cory Booker quickly heated up, leading to a private phone call between the two.

Booker publicly urged Biden to apologize, to which the former Vice President strongly protested in response.

For Biden, despite being seen by many as the likely recipient of the Democratic Party’s nomination for the upcoming election, his early candidacy has thus far been marred by a series of gaffes, as well as the resurfacing of past questionable comments.

From The Hill:

Former Vice President Joe Biden called fellow presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in an attempt to halt the escalating war of words between the two that began with Biden reminiscing about working with segregationist senators and Booker urging him to apologize for the remarks, according to The New York Times.

Biden called Booker shortly after the New Jersey senator’s Wednesday night appearance on CNN, during which Booker told Don Lemon Biden “shouldn’t need this lesson,” The Times reported, citing two people familiar with the call.

A spokesperson for Booker’s campaign said the senator “shared directly what he said publicly,” adding that he still believes Biden should apologize for his remarks.

“Cory shared directly what he said publicly — including helping Vice President Biden understand why the word ‘boy’ is painful to so many,” a spokesperson for Booker’s campaign told The Hill. “Cory believes that Vice President Biden should take responsibility for what he said and apologize to those who were hurt.”

Biden sparked the controversy when, at a fundraiser Tuesday, he spoke of his time working with Sens. James O. Eastland (D-Miss.) and Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.), both of whom opposed the civil rights movement.

“At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished,” Biden said.

Booker was one of the first candidates to call for Biden to apologize for the comments.

Biden the responded by saying Wednesday evening that Booker should apologize.

“He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career,” Biden said. That was followed by Booker’s appearance on CNN.

Biden’s campaign has also sent out talking points noting that his competitors in the crowded Democratic field have themselves worked with congressional colleagues who have been accused of racism.

“The point of the story is that you have to be able to work with people, even if they hold positions repugnant to you in order to make some progress,” the talking points read.

“Our opponents in this race agree — they’ve worked with [former Sen.] Jeff Sessions [R-Ala.], [Rep.] Steve King [R-Iowa], [Sen.] Cindy Hyde Smith [R-Miss.] among others across the aisle to do their jobs in Congress.”

Booker’s and Biden’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.