Photo: Dustin Chambers/Getty Images.
On Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden boasted about his professional relationships with two segregationist former senators during the 1970s at a fundraiser, and now he is demanding an apology from Sen. Cory Booker. How did we get here?
It all started when 2020 election frontrunner Biden, while explaining how he missed “civility” in politics, reminisced about Sens. James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge, two Southern Democrats who fiercely opposed racial integration. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’” Biden said, seemingly signaling at the racist use of the word. “Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew… Well, guess what? At least there was some civility… We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done.” (Perhaps he called Talmadge “mean” for being one of the staunchest critics of desegregation, who even wrote a book, You and Segregation, protesting it.)
Many Democrats strongly criticized the 76-year-old’s comments. Booker, who is also running for president, asked Biden to apologize for his comments in a statement. “You don’t joke about calling Black men ‘boys.’ 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,” Booker said.
Cory Booker Statement on Joe Biden Praising Segregationist Senators pic.twitter.com/O4A6loT6Ya
— Sabrina Singh (@sabrinasingh24) June 19, 2019
“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 said. “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."
This wasn't the first time Biden fondly remembered working with the racist former senators. He recalled the same anecdote at a rally for the then Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones, but he seems to have tweaked the story since: "[Eastland] never called me 'senator,' he called me 'son.'"
Instead issuing an apology, Biden doubled down and said that Booker was the one who should say sorry. "Apologize for what? Cory should apologize. He knows better," Biden told reporters on Wednesday (as in June 19, otherwise known as Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating Black liberation).
Biden hits back at Booker over segregationist senator.
“Apologize for what? Cory [Booker] should apologize. He knows better” pic.twitter.com/xq8lLk4tTj
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) June 20, 2019
Of course, Booker didn't apologize for calling out Biden for praising segregationist senators. Instead, he tweeted, “I’ve spent my entire career speaking truth to power. And I’ll never apologize for doing that.” Then, he plugged his campaign.
I’ve spent my entire career speaking truth to power. And I’ll never apologize for doing that, certainly not when I’m running to beat Donald Trump and bring this country together.
My campaign needs your support. Please consider chipping in now: https://t.co/WsnR9QNViD
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) June 20, 2019
On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in, saying that Booker does not need to apologize to Biden.
"For the record, Cory Booker does *not* owe Joe Biden an apology for pointing out that waxing nostalgic about working with segregationists is insensitive," she tweeted. "'He knows better?' Really? What is 'better?' To stay quiet about it?"
For the record, Cory Booker does *not* owe Joe Biden an apology for pointing out that waxing nostalgic about working with segregationists is insensitive.
“He knows better?” Really? What is “better?” To stay quiet about it? https://t.co/RvFzqAXPI5
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 20, 2019
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