Sanders campaign official praises Harris over clash with Biden on civil rights record

A top official for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE's (I-Vt.) campaign praised Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.) for challenging former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE over his civil rights record during Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate.

“She did her thing, and as a black woman, I can certainly relate to what she had to say about that,” Nina Turner, co-chairwoman Sanders's presidential campaign, told Hill.TV in an interview that aired on Friday.

“It’s unbelievable that [in] this day and age that Vice President Biden believes that local government, that local officials should have that kind of say when it comes to desegregation and racism — all of us should know the history in this country,” she continued.

Turner went on to say the federal government's involvement in desegregation efforts was necessary.

"Thank God the federal government stepped in because had the federal government not stepped in — even though it has unfinished business — but had it not stepped in, people like me and people like Senator Harris and others — our ancestors— would have still been enslaved, so I’m really insulted by that," she said.

Harris captured the spotlight during Thursday’s second round of Democratic debates when she confronted Biden for his comments about working with segregationist senators decades ago and his past stance on school busing.

"I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground," Harris said Thursday. "But I also believe — and it's personal and actually it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputation and career on the segregation of race in this country."

Harris also accused Biden of working with lawmakers to oppose busing of black students to predominately white schools, something which she said benefitted her personally as a young girl.

"You also worked with them to oppose busing, and you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools," she said Thursday, talking to Biden. "And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me."

Biden claimed Harris’s comments were a “mischaracterization" of his position "across the board." He later attempted to clarify his position, saying Friday that he opposed busing by the Department of Education and believed the issue should be decided at a local level.

Following the debate, Biden’s campaign downplayed the heated exchange.

“It’s not for anyone to reject or validate what’s she’s saying,” Symone SandersSymone SandersSaagar Enjeti rips Biden over testy exchange in Iowa Biden gets in testy exchange in Iowa: 'You're a damn liar' Biden defends ties to former fossil fuel executive at climate forum MORE, a senior adviser on Biden’s campaign told reporters at the debate. “Her experience is her experience and I think we should leave it at that.”

Still, Harris doubled down on her criticism of Biden on Friday, telling MSNBC that the former vice president’s “nostalgia” for working with the segregationist senators was “hurtful” and “misplaced.”

Biden later defended himself during an event on Friday.

“I know and you know, I fought my heart out to ensure that civil rights and voting rights, equal rights are enforced everywhere,” he said at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition convention, which was hosted by Rev. Jesse Jackson.

—Tess Bonn