Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Moral Action Congress of the Poor People's Campaign June 17, 2019 at Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'For What?' Joe Biden Refuses to Apologize After Praising Segregationist Senators

"I'm disappointed that he hasn't issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should," said Sen. Cory Booker

Jake Johnson

Under pressure from rival 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and civil rights advocates to apologize for praising the "civility" of two notorious segregationist senators, former Vice President Joe Biden refused to do so on Wednesday, insisting that he has nothing to apologize for.

"Apologize for what?" Biden asked after reporters called attention to Sen. Cory Booker's (D-N.J.) statement demanding an "immediate" apology.

"Cory should apologize," Biden said before attending a fundraiser in Chevy Chase, Maryland. "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."

Demands for Biden to apologize came after the former vice president highlighted his relationship with racist Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia during a fundraiser Tuesday night.

"I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland," Biden said, according to pool reports. "He never called me 'boy,' he always called me 'son.'"

Biden went on to call Talmadge "one of the meanest guys" he ever knew, but added, "At least there was some civility. We got things done."

In a statement on Wednesday, Booker, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, said Biden's "relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone."

"You don't joke about calling black men 'boys,'" said Booker. "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," Booker 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."

Other 2020 presidential contenders joined Booker in condemning Biden's remarks.

"It concerns me deeply," Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday. "If those men had their way, I wouldn't be in the United States Senate and on this elevator right now."

On Twitter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed agreement with Booker's statement.

"This is especially true," Sanders wrote, "at a time when the Trump administration is trying to divide us up with its racist appeals."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

One Year In, Biden Fails to Boost C- Grade on Environment

The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund assessment indicates the administration's action to deliver on environmental promises "desperately needs improvement."

Jessica Corbett ·


'A No-Brainer': Lawmakers Urge Pelosi to Hold Vote on Stock Trading Ban

"Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities," said House members in a bipartisan letter. "We don't care."

Jessica Corbett ·


Virginia Schools Sue Youngkin Mandate Making Masks Optional

The Republican governor wants to allow parents to decide whether their children should wear masks to school to mitigate Covid-19 transmission—guidance at least 58 school districts have no plans to follow.

Julia Conley ·


US Puts Troops on Standby as War Tensions Over Ukraine Mount

The U.K. threatens "lightning war" as military forces mobilize in eastern Europe.

Andrea Germanos ·


Advocacy Group Urges Pfizer to Combat Paxlovid Inequality

"Help end the pandemic this year around the world," one advocate told Pfizer. "Not just in a handful of rich countries."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo