Rev. Jesse Jackson criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for not using the platform provided by the first Democrat presidential debate to address his record on race and civil rights.
Jackson, who vied against Biden for the 1988 Democrat presidential nomination, said the former vice president missed an opportunity to make amends for his longstanding stance on busing to integrate public schools and his recent praise of segregationists.
“It was a moment for him to admit an error in judgment at that time,” Jackson told the New York Times. “He chose not to.”
Jackson said he hoped Biden would “make some adjustments” and address portions of his past as the race got underway. He added that Biden was still electable, but that other candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Biden has been in embroiled in controversy after praising the “civility” of two ardent segregationists, the late-Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA), at a fundraiser in New York City this month.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden told donors with an affected Southern drawl. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”
“Well guess what?” the Democrat frontrunner 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.”
At the debate on Thursday, the former vice president got into a fiery back and forth with Harris over those comments and his position on busing.
“I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris said, “but I also believe and it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senator who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
“It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose bussing,” she continued. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day. That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate… we have to take it seriously.”