Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker had a message for Joe Biden on Wednesday night after the former vice president blasted him for criticizing his remarks on segregationist senators: Don’t risk stooping to the level of President Trump by refusing to admit when you’re wrong.
After Biden waxed nostalgic at a campaign fundraiser about pro-segregation Senators James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge and said Eastland “never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’” Booker released a statement saying he was “disappointed” that Biden hadn’t “issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans.”
When asked to respond to the growing controversy over his remarks, Biden pushed back while taking specific aim at Booker.
“Apologize for what? Cory should apologize, he knows better,” Biden exclaimed. “There’s not a racist bone in my body, I’ve been involved with civil rights my whole career. Period. Period. Period.”
“The vice president said I should know better, this is what I know,” Booker told CNN anchor Don Lemon on Wednesday evening. “As a black man in America, I know the deeply harmful and hurtful usage of the word boy and how it was used to dehumanize and degrade.”
Throughout the lengthy CNN interview, Booker seemed to suggest that Biden was falling into Trump-like habits by refusing to admit he was wrong on this topic and making it clear he isn't willing to listen to others. The New Jersey lawmaker also wanted to make clear that he is not accusing Biden of racism.
“The fact he has said something that an African-American man can find very offensive and turn around and say ‘I’m not a racist. You should apologize to me,’” Booker explained. “As opposed to–Angela Davis used to say, in a time of racism it’s not enough to say I’m not racist. You need to be anti-racist.”
Adding that what he feels Biden needs to recognize that “we’re all gonna say things that are wrong,” he called on the former veep to “recognize that and take the step that you need for healing and reconciliation to admit to that.”
“So for his posture to be to me ‘I’ve done nothing wrong, you should apologize, I’m not a racist’ is so insulting and so missing the larger point that he should not have to have explained to him,” Booker stated. “This should not be a lesson that somebody running for the President of the United States should have to be given.”