Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called out former Vice President Joe Biden for not knowing how to apologize after praising segregationists and for “struggling to convey respect for women.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who has made no attempt to hide her distaste for moderates within the Democrat Party before, was asked during an interview with the The New Yorker radio hour on Tuesday about her thoughts on the first presidential debate. The congresswoman said that while there were plenty of “really good performances,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) stood out for “confronting” Biden over his recent praise of segregationists and his long held views on busing.
David Remnick, the show’s host, asked Ocasio-Cortez if she believed Harris was “fair” to criticize Biden so sternly. The question comes after Biden’s team is attempting to dismiss Harris’s criticism as that of someone who is “out to win at any cost.”
“I think she was fair,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I absolutely think she was fair. I think this is part of a larger discussion, issues of race and gender are not extra credit points in being a good Democrat. They are a core part of the competencies that a president needs.”
She added that it was important to recognize the U.S. is “one of the biggest experiments in a multi-racial democracy in the history of humanity” and any candidate that didn’t understand that “or the multi-identity part of a multi-racial democracy” would be severely hampered from governing.
Remnick inquired if age was a factor in whom the Democrats should nominate to take on Trump in 2020. Ocasio-Cortez started off by saying that age often is used “as a proxy” for capacity and there were certainly “some folks of a certain age where you could question their capacity.”
When pressed, the congresswoman named President Donald Trump as “a perfect example,” but added that Biden’s performance at the debate cast doubt on his own “capacity” to be commander in chief.
“I think Joe Biden, his performance on the stage, kind of raised some questions in respect to that,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “But I don’t want to say just because someone is 79, they can’t or shouldn’t run for president. I don’t want to… use a number as a proxy for capacity.”
Remnick proceeded to ask what it was about Biden that made Ocasio-Cortez think he was “not there” and how progressives “should behave” if the former vice president or any other centrist Democrat were to win the nomination.
“It’s not just about being centrist per se,” the congresswoman responded. “When you are struggling to talk about segregationists and you air on the side of discussing them in glowing terms, that is a big problem.”
“I think struggling and talking about women’s rights is a big issue,” she said. “Struggling to convey respect for women in this day and age is a big issue. I think those are systemic issues, those are very deep, those are not gaffes, they are problems.”
Remnick suggested some of those concerns might result from a generational gap. The interviewer asked if it was possible to hold people accountable for “complicated” public issues, like busing, and “old standards” of political correctness or, in Biden’s case, “the way people were physically with each other.”
“The number on indicator on this is does the person know how to apologize,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “If you don’t know how to apologize for praising segregationists then that’s a red flag already. I think people are very forgiving on that, I think people understand that over the course of a career as the country evolves, our politics will evolve.”
She added that “if we approach past mistakes” from a position of defense, especially on an issue “the country has move on from,” then it “calls into question” any present judgement.
At a later portion of the interview, Ocasio-Cortez left open the notion of endorsing Biden if he were the Democrat nominee, saying it vital to do whatever was possible to defeat Trump.
Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism comes as Biden is engulfed in controversy for his record on civil rights and friendships with ardent segregationists. The controversy started last month when Biden invoked the late-Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA) at a fundraiser in New York City. The former vice president brought up the two men while touting his ability to forge “consensus” in Congress.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden told donors with an effected 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.”
The praise quickly triggered backlash as Talmadge and Eastland were well-known segregationists who dedicated their careers to halting the progress of civil rights. Eastland, whom Biden has praised as a friend and mentor in the past, was known as the “voice of the white South” for his defense of Jim Crow and propensity for referring to African Americans as “an inferior race.”