Kamala Harris called out Joe Biden during the second Democratic debate about his recent comments citing the “civility” of two segregationist senators.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said directly to the former vice president. But she said his words were “hurtful” and said Biden worked with the late Mississippi Sen. James O. Eastland, a Democrat who made no secret that he was in favor of segregation, and Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge, to oppose bussing students.
Harris said that she was actually bussed to school as a child, sop his words resonated deeply with her.
Biden pushed back before willingly stopping speaking: “My time is up,” he told NBC moderator Chuck Todd.
It was a heated moment during the lively debate.
The second Democratic debate featured the ten candidates who didn’t participate in the first installment the night before in Miami. It featured Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Biden, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Andrew Yang, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Marianne Williamson.
Biden came in leading all Democratic candidates in polling, with his next nearest challenger still seven percentage points away from the former vice president. But Barack Obama’s former number two has still had more than his fair share of controversy during his third campaign for the White House.
Biden’s role as chair of the House Judiciary Committee when Clarence Thomas was being confirmed for the Supreme Court instantly came back to haunt him after he announced his 2020 candidacy. the elder statesman of the Democratic Party has a long history on Capitol Hill that will certainly be dissected during the campaign season. One of them is how he handled Anita Hill when she testified at Clarence Thomas‘ confirmation hearing.
Hill’s 1991 sexual harassment case against her then-boss Clarence Thomas after he was nominated to the Supreme Court had a seismic effect on women’s civil rights. Many felt that Biden allowed Hill to be attacked by a flock of old white men and never calling other witnesses to testify. She has said he has never apologized and given the recent opportunity to do so, Biden declined (refused?) again.
There was also a report in the New York Times earlier this month claiming that Biden has embellished his civil rights record for decades. That report came as Biden was also coming under fire for authoring the same 1994 crime bill that Hillary Clinton’s opponents called her out for referencing “super predators” in what many people have said was a nod to the Black people who were disproportionately affected by the law.
Then, most recently, Biden fondly recalled two racist former U.S. Senators during a speech in New York City on June 18. Defending the late Mississippi Sen. James O. Eastland, a Democrat who made no secret that he was in favor of segregation, Biden told the audience at the fundraiser that Eastland “never called me ‘boy.’” The remark that lacked full context — for starters, Eastland probably never called Biden “boy” because Biden isn’t Black — was followed by another that extended the same sentiment of “civility” to former Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge.
Throughout it all, Biden has maintained a strong level of endorsements from the Black community. “Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus leaped to former Vice President Joe Biden’s defense,” Politico reported, with House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress, being the most vocal.