2020 Democrats push back on Castro exchange with Biden: 'So personal and so unnecessary'

Democratic presidential candidates are pushing back on former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro after a fiery exchange he had with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE during Thursday's primary debate in Houston.

During Thursday's debate, the two men sparred over Biden's health care plan and Castro accused the former vice president of forgetting comments he made just minutes earlier.

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"Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?" Castro fired at Biden on the issue of auto-enrollment in health care plans. "Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? I can't believe that you said, two minutes ago, that they had to buy in and now you're forgetting that. We need a health care system where you're automatically enrolled."

Castro later said he was not taking a shot at Biden's age, but was just focusing on his comments from moments earlier. 

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegOvernight Energy: Sanders scores highest on green group's voter guide | Trump's latest wins for farmers may not undo trade damage | Amazon employees defy company to speak on climate change Sanders surges to first in New Hampshire: poll Majority sees no ties between business experience and political success MORE (D) took aim at Castro onstage after the remarks, saying that the comments were why debates were "becoming unwatchable."

"That's called the Democratic primary election, Pete. That's called an election," Castro shot back, to some laughs.

Several candidates pushed back on Castro's comments in the spin room, with some saying the former secretary's rhetoric onstage had verged on Trumpian, according to CNN.

"It feels like something that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE might tweet," Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Energy: Sanders scores highest on green group's voter guide | Trump's latest wins for farmers may not undo trade damage | Amazon employees defy company to speak on climate change Sanders surges to first in New Hampshire: poll Majority sees no ties between business experience and political success MORE (D-Minn.) told CNN, adding that the attack was "so personal and so unnecessary."

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Black caucus in Nevada: 'Notion that Biden has all of black vote is not true' The Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two MORE (D-N.J.) defended Castro's comments after the debate, saying the concerns were "legitimate."

"I've seen this movie before in the last election," Booker said.

"But you saw the way I did it. It wasn't a cheap shot," he added of his own past onstage clashes with the former vice president.

Booker added to his comments on CNN's "New Day" Friday morning, explaining that he finds concerns about Biden "fumbling" onstage to be "really important," but saying that he took issue with how the issue was raised.

"We love our country, and we want to have the best candidate for that. What I do have a problem with is tone, tenor, how we go at each other," Booker said.

"I saw this last election, how we tore candidates down, how we tore individuals down, in such a way that after the primary we didn't have the kind of unity that we need," he added.

Former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeVeronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Biden calls for revoking key online legal protection Trump mocks Booker over suspended presidential campaign MORE (D-Texas) was more direct in his criticism of Castro, telling CNN that the remarks would not help Democrats in in 2020.

"That will not defeat Donald Trump. That won’t bring this deeply divided country back together again," the former congressman said. "That kind of personal attack I don’t think is what we need right now and is insufficient to the challenges we face."

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Harris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? MORE (D-Calif.) was more measured in her remarks when asked about Castro, explaining that “it’s a debate stage — things get heated.”

"But I do believe that...the focus needs to be on the fact that Donald Trump is not doing the American people the benefit of the office," Harris told CNN on Friday.

During his own spin room interview after the debate, Castro added that his remark aimed at Buttigieg was not meant as a personal slight.

"This is a debate. And when we're talking about health care policy, we're talking about a policy that impacts every single person in this country," Castro told CNN.

—Updated at 10:45 a.m.