Pelosi downplays Biden controversy: 'Joe Biden is authentic'

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday tried to downplay the controversy surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden touting his work with segregationist senators as an example of "civility."

"I think that authenticity is the most important characteristic that candidates have to convey to the American people and Joe Biden is authentic," Pelosi told reporters at a press conference in the Capitol. "He considers certain things a resource, that he has worked across the aisle. That's what he was saying."

Pelosi neither criticized nor explicitly defended Biden, but in addition to describing him as "authentic," she noted he has support among African Americans. 


"Joe Biden seems to have tremendous support in the African American community, but it's for them to decide. It's not for me to make a judgment as to how they're going to react," Pelosi said.


She also tried to shift the focus to the contrast between Democratic presidential candidates and President Trump.

"This election is about how we connect with the American people, addressing their kitchen-table needs. For us to spend time on an issue like this - which is important, but it's not central to what the election is about," Pelosi said.


Biden, during a fundraiser on Tuesday, cited Democratic segregationist Sens. James Eastland (Miss.) and Herman Talmadge (Ga.) as examples of people with whom he worked despite disagreeing with them.


"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.


Fellow Democratic presidential contenders criticized Biden, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who called on him to apologize.

"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. 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," Booker said in a statement.


But Biden stood by his comments on Wednesday.


"Apologize for what? Cory should apologize. He knows better. There's not a racist bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period. Period. Period," Biden said.