It all started when 2020 election frontrunner Biden, while explaining how he missed “civility” in politics, reminisced about Sens. James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge, two Southern Democrats who fiercely opposed racial integration. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’” Biden said, seemingly signaling at the racist use of the word. “Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew... Well, guess what? At least there was some civility... We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done.” (Perhaps he called Talmadge “mean” for being one of the staunchest critics of desegregation, who even wrote a book, You and Segregation, protesting it.)
Many Democrats strongly criticized the 76-year-old’s comments. Booker, who is also running for president, asked Biden to apologize for his comments in a statement. “You don’t joke about calling Black men ‘boys.’ 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,” Booker said.
“Vice President 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,” Booker said. “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."
Of course, Booker didn't apologize for calling out Biden for praising segregationist senators. Instead, he tweeted, “I’ve spent my entire career speaking truth to power. And I’ll never apologize for doing that.” Then, he plugged his campaign.
I’ve spent my entire career speaking truth to power. And I’ll never apologize for doing that, certainly not when I’m running to beat Donald Trump and bring this country together.— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) June 20, 2019
My campaign needs your support. Please consider chipping in now: https://t.co/WsnR9QNViD
On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in, saying that Booker does not need to apologize to Biden.
"For the record, Cory Booker does *not* owe Joe Biden an apology for pointing out that waxing nostalgic about working with segregationists is insensitive," she tweeted. "'He knows better?' Really? What is 'better?' To stay quiet about it?"