Biden campaign blasts 'willfully disingenuous' attacks on remark about segregationist senators

Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE's campaign on Wednesday defended the former vice president from mounting criticism from his Democratic White House rivals after he invoked his working relationships with two segregationist senators in the 1970s and pointed to it as an example of "civility" that no longer exists in the Senate.

Biden campaign spokeswoman Symone SandersSymone SandersBiden defends ties to former fossil fuel executive at climate forum Monmouth acknowledges poll showing Biden losing support was 'outlier' Democratic contenders unload on news media MORE issued a lengthy response on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon after multiple Democratic presidential rivals blasted Biden for mentioning former Sens. James Eastland (D-Miss.) and Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) during a speech at a fundraiser the previous night.

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"[Biden] did not praise a segregationist. That is a disingenuous take. He basically said sometimes in Congress, one has to work with terrible or down right racist folks to get things done. And then went on to say when you can't work with them, work around them," Sanders tweeted.

"Joe Biden has been an ally in the fight for civil rights for years. I am all here for VALID CRITICISM, but suggesting that Joe Biden - the man who literally ran for office against an incumbent at 29 because of the civil rights movement, the man who was at the forefront of marriage equality before it was politically popular, the man who served as President Obama's VP, the man who literally launched his 2020 campaign calling out Nazis in Charlottesville along with Trump's equivalency - suggesting he is actively praising a segregationist is just a bad take and a willfully disingenuous act," she wrote in multiple tweets.

Biden's campaign issued the response as Democratic rivals pounced on his remarks from a fundraiser Tuesday night, with Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGOP senator blasts Dem bills on 'opportunity zones' Booker on Erdoğan: We should not be 'rolling out the red carpet for a ruthless authoritarian' The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine MORE (D-N.J.) saying Biden was “wrong” to invoke his working relationships Eastland and Talmadge as an example of political compromise and calling on him to apologize.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’ ” said Booker, who is black. “Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity."

“I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together,” he added. “And frankly, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.”

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (I-Vt.) echoed Booker’s call for an apology, adding that Biden’s remarks were particularly harmful “at a time when the Trump administration is trying to divide us up with its racist appeals.”

Democratic Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE (Mass.), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioDe Blasio slams Bloomberg run for president: He 'epitomizes the status quo' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington braces for public impeachment hearings Trump NYC Veterans Day speech met with protests MORE and former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyDelaney to take message to Iowa voters on Sunday with infomercial Bloomberg run should push Warren to the center — but won't The Hill's 12:30 Report: Impeachment fight enters new stage MORE (Md.) also blasted Biden over the comments he made Tuesday night in which he touted his ability to work with the two staunch segregationists during his time in the Senate despite their disagreements.

“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,” Biden said of Eastland and Talmadge. 

Biden has long cast himself as a supporter of civil rights and polls show he enjoys strong support among African American voters, many of whom associate him positively with former President Obama.

Biden launched his campaign in April with a broadside levied at President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE over his reaction to the deadly 2017 Charlottesville riots between white supremacists and counter-protesters. Trump infamously said he believed there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Yet progressives, eager to cut down Biden's comfortable leads in early primary polls, have pointed to his association with Republicans during his time in the Senate as evidence that the former vice president may be too eager to work across the aisle if he were elected. 

“I know the new New Left tells me that I’m – this is old-fashioned,” Biden said Tuesday. “Well guess what? If we can’t reach a consensus in our system, what happens? It encourages and demands the abuse of power by a president. That’s what it does.”