Biden Encounters Backlash for Praising Segregationists

Biden, Backlash
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Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to draw fire from across the political spectrum after praising the “civility” of well-known segregationists.

During a fundraising event in New York City on Tuesday, the Democrat frontrunner invoked his working relationship with the late-Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA) to argue he was the candidate best “able to reach consensus under our system.”

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said with a Southern drawl. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”

“Well guess what?” the former vice president continued. “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. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Both Talmadge and Eastland were known as fierce opponents of integration and civil rights throughout their long careers in public office. Eastland, particularly, became known as the “voice of the white South” for his fiery backing of Jim Crow.

Biden’s attempt to explain the importance of bipartisanship by highlighting his personal and professional relationships with the two segregationist Democrats did not sit well with many.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a fellow presidential candidate, offered a strong rebuke on Wednesday, saying Biden’s relationship with “proud segregationists” was not a “model” to bring “our country together.”

Booker said in a statement on Wednesday:

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys.’ 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. 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.”

Other 2020 Democrats were equally unwilling to tolerate Biden’s remarks.

Some Republicans noted that it was improper for Biden to cite Eastland and Talmadge to bolster his bipartisan bonafides, as both were life-long Democrats.

Biden’s allies were out in full force on Wednesday attempting to stymie the backlash. Anita Dunn, an adviser to the former vice president’s campaign, claimed during an MSNBC interview Biden’s friendship with Eastland and Talmadge was similar to that between Booker and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Another adviser asserted it was “disingenuous” to claim Biden had offered praise for “a segregationist.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), who as House Majority Whip is the highest ranking African-American in Congress, also leapt to Biden’s defense.

“I worked with Strom Thurmond all my life,” Clyburn told Politico. “You don’t have to agree with people to work with them.”

The South Carolina congressman has been criticized in recent days for “tactically endorsing” Biden in the race for the Democrat nomination, despite promising to remain neutral.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), like Clyburn a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it was important not to give “segregationists the currency to be at the table.”

“Segregationists at their core are those who believe in white superiority and black inferiority,” Rush said. “There can be no compromise with someone in this day and time as someone who would define themselves as a segregationist.”

“Did he really say that?” he added. “Oh lord.”


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