On Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden boasted about his professional relationships with two former segregationist senators from 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 the presidential hopeful, in explaining how he missed “civility” in politics, referred to Sens. James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge, two Dixiecrats who 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.)
The 76-year-old’s comments weren’t well-received by many in his party. Booker, a New Jersey senator and a Black man, was especially displeased, and 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 wrote in a statement. Eastland was also a vocal critic of civil rights legislation, and was once called “The Voice of the White South.”
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."
It wasn’t the first time Biden referred to his time in Congress getting along with the racist former senators wistfully. He recalled the same anecdote about working with segregationists at a rally for the then Alabama senate candidate Doug Jones, but he seems to have tweaked the anecdote, since — "(Eastland) never called me ‘senator,’ he called me ‘son.’"
Instead of caving in and issuing an apology, the former vice president 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
And Booker apologized. Just kidding, he didn’t; he tweeted, “I’ve spent my entire career speaking truth to power. And I’ll never apologize for doing that.” Then, of course, he plugged his campaign. He’s going to need support if he’s going to take Biden, who is leading the polls, down in the primaries.
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
Later in the afternoon, 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?" she wrote.
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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Source: Refinery29 – Tiffany Tso