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'Beyond Spin Control': Anti-Busing Past Not Going Away as Biden and Staff Dig Themselves Deeper

"Joe Biden's campaign going all in on states rights in the civil rights debate. Just rejecting the entire premise of the civil rights movement!"

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden attends the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on June 28, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden attends the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on June 28, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Less than 24 hours after his history of supporting anti-busing measures became one of the highlight moments in Thursday's Democratic primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden and his staff continued to defend his position on Friday even as criticism of the Democratic frontrunner continued to pile up.

"If this campaign continues to double down on segregationist policies," said policy analyst Samuel Sinyangwe, "it should immediately disqualify Joe Biden from the race."

Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) sparred over the Biden's past support of segregationist policies, including opposing busing to integrate schools in the 1970s, on stage Thursday night.

In a moment during the exchange that was immediately the center of attention for the debate crowd and stage, Harris told the story of Harris invoked "a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day."

"And that little girl was me," said Harris.

Biden countered by claiming he had not been opposed to busing, but rather to the federal government forcing the integration practice, a position that many critics, including The Intercept's Ryan Grim, likened to the right-wing argument of "state's rights" used to push back against the civil rights movement. 

"Joe Biden's campaign going all in on states rights in the civil rights debate," Grim said. "Just rejecting the entire premise of the civil rights movement!"

During a Friday appearance at a labor luncheon in Chicago hosted by Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Biden appeared committed to his stance that the issue at hand was forcing communities to integrate rather than busing per se.

"I was never opposed to voluntary busing," said Biden. 

Later in his remarks, Biden tried to shift the focus of the race away from his comments, saying that the primary contest "shouldn't be about the past."

After the former vice president's speech, Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director Kate Bedingfield appeared on MSNBC, where she appeared to make the argument that busing was ineffective at integrating schools.

"At the time many in the African American community, in the civil rights community, were saying busing was not the best way to integrate schools," said Bedingfield. "And, frankly, that's been borne out today."

"The Biden campaign is simultaneously saying that Biden never opposed busing, that busing was opposed by many in the civil rights community, and that busing wasn’t effective," said Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid on Friday afternoon.

According to Sandy Darity, an economics professor at Duke University, the time to fix the damage is likely over. 

"His comments last night are beyond spin control," said Darity. "Those with integrity need to exit from his campaign."

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