It’ll be the moment everyone is talking about.
In the second Democratic primary debate Thursday night, Sen. Kamala Harris turned to address former Vice-President Joe Biden, holding him accountable for statements he made touting his ability to work with segregationist, white supremacists, including Mississippi Sen. James O. Eastland, known as “The Voice of the White South,” and Georgia Gov. Herman Talmadge.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said during a campaign fundraiser in NYC, reportedly slipping into a southern drawl. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”
Eastland worked closely with the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, a state-sponsored white terrorist organization that aided and abetted in the assassinations of Black civil rights leaders.
But according to Biden, “Jim” was a model of civility.
“Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you, when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris said during Thursday’s debate. “But I also believe — and it’s personal — it was actually hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
Harris didn’t stop there, though. She recalled that Biden also worked with Eastland on anti-busing legislation, as ESSENCE previously reported, that would have prevented little Black girls like her from attending school.
In a March 25, 1977 letter, Biden wrote his mentor, who at the time served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, these words:
“Dear Mr. Chairman, I want you to know that I very much appreciate your help during this week’s committee meeting in attempting to bring my anti-busing legislation to a vote.”
“There was 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. That little girl was me,” Harris said.
Biden didn’t back down, saying that Harris had “mischaracterized his positions across the board.”
“I did not praise racists. … If we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights or not, I’m happy to do that,” he said.
Then Biden risked it all.
“I was a public defender, I didn’t become a prosecutor.”
Harris has taken heat for her roles as both district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California.
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