Former Vice President Joe Biden shifted his stump speech on Wednesday to include references to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, amid an uproar over his praise of two fervent segregationists.
Biden, who is reeling in the fall out of praising the late Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA), invoked Kennedy, a liberal icon, multiple times during a fundraiser in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
“He’s the guy who got me on the Judiciary Committee, we served from years and years,” the Democrat frontrunner told donors. “We had to put up with the likes of Jim Eastland and Herman Talmadge and all those segregationists and all of that.”
“The fact of the matter is that we were able to do it because we were able to win — we were able to beat them on everything they stood for,” the former vice president continued. “We in fact detested what they stood for in terms of segregation and all the rest.”
Biden added it was the Kennedy’s decision to take the helm of another congressional committee that paved his ascension to the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he was able to push for civil rights.
“Because of Teddy… we were able to do so much,” he said. “We restored the Voting Rights Act, we did it, and over time we extended it by 25 years not just five years.”
Biden’s inclusion of Kennedy and his denouncement of Eastland, Talmadge, and “all those segregationists,” stands in stark contrast to his comments at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City on Tuesday.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden told donors with a fake Southern drawl, when touting his bipartisan bonafides. “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.”
Biden’s comments quickly sparked rebuke, especially from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), a fellow presidential candidate, because of both men’s long and storied records of opposing civil rights and integration.
The fundraiser on Wednesday, held the home of Tim Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, was Biden’s first public appearance since the backlash began. It was, however, largely overshadowed by the former vice president taking a defiant stand on the issue.
“Apologize for what?” Biden said when confronted by CNN outside the venue. The former vice president added that if anyone owed an apology it was Booker for saying he was “wrong” to use his his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as “an examples of how to bring our country together.”
“Cory should apologize. He knows better,” Biden said. “There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.”