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Sen. Cory Booker: Joe Biden is missing the point on segregationists



Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said he was “surprised” and “deeply” disappointed by former Vice President Joe Biden’s unapologetic response to criticism, after discussing his time working with segregationist senators in the 1970s.

Biden, a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, was widely criticized for comments made on Tuesday night at a fundraiser in New York City. The Democratic presidential candidate highlighted his work with the late Democratic Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia — both of whom were opposed to desegregation — in an effort to counter critics who called him “old-fashioned” and to explain the importance of finding a common ground to push legislation.

“He never called me ‘boy,'” Biden recalled of his caucus with Eastland. “He always called me ‘son.'”

“Well guess what,” he added. “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.”

On Wednesday, Booker called out Biden over the story and his use of the word “boy,” which has racial undertones.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,'” Booker said in a statement, adding, “I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.”

Asked if he was going to apologize, Biden replied on Wednesday, “Apologize for what?”

“Cory should apologize,” Biden said. “He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period, period, period.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden.
AP Photo/Paul Vernon

Booker, who is also running for the Democratic nomination, rejected Biden’s assertion: “This is what I know,” Booker said during a CNN interview on Wednesday evening. “As black man in America, I know the deeply harmful and hurtful [the] usage of the word ‘boy,’ and how it was used to dehumanize and degrade.”

“I know that I was raised to speak truth to power and that I will never apologize for doing that,” Booker added. “And Vice President Biden shouldn’t need this lesson. And at a time when we have from the highest office in the land: a divisiveness, a racial hatred, and bigotry being spewed. He should have the sensitivity to know that ‘this is a time I need to be an ally, I need to be a healer, I need to not engage in usage of words that will harm folks.'”

Booker said he did not understand how Biden, a senator of over 35 years, was “missing the larger point.”

“He knows better,” Booker said. “And at a time when Donald Trump never apologizes for anything and starts to create that kind of toxic sentiment … I know Joe Biden. He’s better than this. And this is a moment where he should have spoken to the issue, allowed everybody to learn from it and move on.”

Biden was also criticized by other Democratic candidates. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who is black, said “it concerns me deeply.”

“If those men had their way, I wouldn’t be in the United States Senate and on this elevator right now,” Harris said, ABC News reported.

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