Joe Biden’s got the other 2020 Dems riled up again — this time over his reminiscences about segregationist senators he worked with way back when.
Several of the former VP’s rivals jumped in with criticism after reports that Biden seemed to celebrate the civility of Sen. Herman Talmadge of Georgia and Sen. James Eastland of Mississippi, who both supported racist policies and segregation, at an event Tuesday night. “At least there was some civility. We got things done,” Biden told the crowd at a New York fundraiser, according to a pool report.
He went on about being in a caucus with James O. Eastland, noting, "He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’” It’s not clear why Biden, who is white and was Eastland Senate colleague at the time, would’ve been called “son,” a racial epithet that’s deployed against black men. And that was particularly offensive to Cory Booker: “You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’” the New Jersey senator said in a statement. “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.”
Eastland, who was called “the voice of the white South,” said in his 1942 Senate race that if he was elected he would stop blacks and whites from eating together in Washington and often referred to blacks as “an inferior race.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, tied for second in recent polls, also had something to say when asked about Biden’s comments: “I’m not here to criticize other Democrats, but it’s never OK to celebrate segregationists. Never.”
And New York Mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter, posting a photo of his family. DeBlasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is black and his kids are multiracial. “Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to ‘the pursuit of dead n*ggers,” De Blasio wrote in a tweet.
Even former Rep. John Delaney hopped on, tweeting “Evoking an avowed segregationist is not the best way to make the point that we need to work together and is insensitive.”
The teens who run former Sen. Mike Gravel’s Twitter account wrote, “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
“I agree with Cory Booker,” wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders in a tweet, which quote-tweeted Booker. “This is especially true at a time when the Trump administration is trying to divide us up with its racist appeals.”
It didn't help that Biden made the comments on the eve of Juneteenth, marking the abolition of slavery 154 years ago.
The Biden camp, for its part, responded to the criticism by saying that Biden did not, in fact, praise a segregationist. “This is a disingenuous take,” tweeted Biden’s senior adviser Symone Sanders, who is black. “He basically said sometimes in Congress, one has to work with terrible or downright racist folks to get things done.”
Democrats early on in their presidential campaigns have mostly avoided taking shots at one another. But it’s not the first time during this election cycle that Biden’s come under fire from his fellow Dems. When Biden reminded everyone that he still supports the Hyde Amendment, a controversial budget rule that blocks government funding for abortions, except in the case of rape, incest, or severe health risks to the mother, the other candidates piled on him for it.
“Understand this: Women of means will still have access to abortions,” Warren said at a town hall.
“Repealing the Hyde Amendment is critical so low-income women in particular can have access to the reproductive care they need and deserve,” Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand wrote in a tweet.
“No woman’s access to reproductive health care should be based on how much money she has. We must repeal the Hyde Amendment,” Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, speaks at the Poor People's Moral Action Congress presidential forum in Washington, Monday, June 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)