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 BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal 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.


"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 ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Biden's Big Labor policies will create next round of inflation Airlines should give flight attendants 10 hours of rest between flights: FAA 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 TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE might tweet," Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan MORE (D-Minn.) told CNN, adding that the attack was "so personal and so unnecessary."

Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing 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'RourkeSupport for governors sliding in states without vaccine mandates: survey Abbott bans vaccine mandates from any 'entity in Texas' Abbott disapproval rating up 8 points to 59 percent in San Antonio area: poll 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 HarrisObama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech Biden's safe-space CNN town hall attracts small audience, as poll numbers plummet 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.