As viral moments go, this is as close as presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker has gotten. Calling on front runner, former Vice President Joe Biden to apologize for comments he made about working closely with segregationist Sen. James Eastland and joking about being called “son” as opposed to “boy.”
“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,” said Booker in a statement. “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. 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.”
The comments, coming as they did on Juneteenth, presented an opportunity for Booker to take aim at Biden on an issue on which observers feel Biden may have some political vulnerability given his support of a controversial crime bill in the 1990s that many feel led to mass incarceration of black and brown men and women across the country. Booker was critical of Biden over that as well, calling the bill “shameful.”
Biden reportedly called Booker this week to discuss the disagreement but did not apologize. The two are scheduled to speak before the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention this weekend. South Carolina is an early primary state that features a large bloc of black voters. At the moment, Biden has a large lead over Booker in the state — Biden with 37% and Booker with 5%, even among black voters, where he pulls 52% of voters.