Democratic candidates Cory Booker and Joe Biden continue to snip back and forth over Biden’s now widely-panned remarks about working with segregationists. Booker chimed in with a third volley last night on CNN.
What matters to me is that a guy running to be the head of our party, which is a significantly diverse and wondrous party, doesn’t even understand and can’t even acknowledge that he made a mistake, whether the intention was there or not,” Booker said. “Instead, he’s fallen back into the defensive crouch that often people say, which is ‘Cory called me a racist’ or ‘I’m not a racist,’ which is not what I said, and not what I’m calling him.”
“This is the problem. He knows better,” he continued. “At a time when Donald Trump never apologizes for anything and starts to create that toxic sentiment that you never apologize … I know Joe Biden. He’s better than this.”
The controversy began after comments Biden made at a Wall Street fundraiser at New York’s Carlyle Hotel on Monday, intended to highlight his ability to work across diverse viewpoints to get things done. Biden cited segregationists James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman E Talmadge of Georgia, as two senators with whom he disagreed, but still worked with and “got things done”.
I was in a caucus with James O Eastland,” Biden told guests of the event, briefly imitating the senator’s southern drawl, according to the press pool report. “He never called me ‘boy’, he always called me ‘son’,” he said.
He went on to describe Talmadge as “one of the meanest guys” he ever knew but said, “At least there was some civility. We got things done.”
Both senators are remembered for their racist views.
Booker chimed in initially: “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.” He also called for the former vice-president to issue “an immediate apology”.
Biden seemed to take the remarks personally, responding to Booker: “Cory should apologize…He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period,” prompting Booker’s second response on CNN last night.
The entire kerfuffle came as Black Americans celebrate the emancipation holiday known as Juneteenth, and as lawmakers on the hill held hearings on reparations for the descendants of US slavery and segregation.