One of the segregationist senators Joe Biden bragged about working with called African Americans ‘flesh eaters’ and said white people have the right to pursue ‘dead n*****s,’ it emerged Friday.
Mississippi Senator James Eastland made the references when he spoke at a 1956 pro-segregation rally during the Montgomery bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
‘In every stage of the bus boycott we have been oppressed and degraded because of black, slimy, juicy, unbearably stinky n*****s … African flesh-eaters. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to abolish the Negro race, proper methods should be used.
‘Among these are guns, bows and arrows, slingshots and knives. … All whites are created equal with certain rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of dead n*****s,’ Eastland said, according to Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, ‘Master of the Senate.’
The comments resurfaced amid mounting calls for Biden to apologize for boasting about working with Eastland and other Democratic segregationists – and as he travels to South Carolina to court African-American votes.
James Eastland, who served as a senator from Mississippi from 1941-1978
James Eastland in his Washington D.C. office with photos of Confederate generals on the wall: from top left: Jefferson Davis, Thomas Jefferson and John C. Calhoun. Bottom row from left: Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson
Joe Biden is dealing with the fallout of his praise of the senators
The careers of Eastland and the late Georgia Senator Henry Talmadge are back in the spotlight after Biden highlighted his work with them at a fundraiser in New York earlier this week.
Caro’s description of Eastland’s words at the White Citizens Council in the Montgomery Coliseum – ‘the largest pro-segregation rally in history’ – underline the danger being associated with Eastland represent to Biden.
His rivals for the 2020 nomination pounced on his praise of the two men, who were leading proponents of segregation in their time.
Biden and his campaign is dealing with the fallout of the former vice president’s praise of the two Southern politicians as they prepare to land in South Carolina Friday.
The former vice president is scheduled to appear at a closed-door round-table of black leaders Friday afternoon.
The careers of the segregationist senators – both of whom owned plantations and opposed the Civil Rights Act – has been well documented in books about that time.
Caro’s book also revealed Eastland, known as the ‘Voice of the White South,’ told Jewish Sen. Jacob Javits of New York: ‘I don’t like you – or your kind.’
Eastland’s obituary in Los Angeles Times, recounts the effort by President John F Kennedy to nominate Thurgood Marshall to a court seat from which Marshall ultimately was named as the first black on the Supreme Court.
In return for supporting the president, Eastland wanted his old crony, Harold Cox, named to the federal bench.
According to one account, which originated with Robert F. Kennedy, Eastland told the then-attorney general: ‘You tell your brother if he gives me Cox, I will give him his n****r.’
Talmadge has a similar history.
When President Dwight Eisenhower sent in federal troops to enforce school desegregation in Arkansas while angry white mobs protested, Talmadge likened it to ‘Russian tanks and troops in the streets of Budapest.’
And Talmadge also said of the desegregation movement: ‘They couldn’t send enough bayonets down here to compel the people to send their children to school with n***as.’
Eastland lost his 1978 re-election bid and said he ‘didn’t regret a thing’ in his public career.
Biden also invoked the name of Senator Herman E. Talmadge in his controversial remarks
Talmadge lost his re-election bid in 1980 after his wife testified against him in an investigation of his finances, which led to his censure in the Senate and, ultimately, his political down fall.
Biden has stood by his praise and refused to apologize for it.
And he’ll face more questions about it during his public appearance at a fish fry held Friday night by Representative James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American lawmaker in the House.
Clyburn has defended Biden and his record on race relations even as the former vice president’s past actions have returned to the spotlight – including his opposition to school busing, which sent children to schools in different neighborhoods to promote racial diversity.
Biden, when he was a freshman senator in Delaware during the 1970s, spoke out against the practice.
‘I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race,’ ‘ Biden told a Delaware-based weekly newspaper in 1975. ‘I don’t buy that.’
Biden will meet with African American leaders in South Carolina and attend the fish fry of Representative James Clyburn, the highest ranking black lawmaker in the House
A school busing program in Denver in 1968
Biden spokesman Bill Russo told The Washington Post in March the former vice president still believes he was right to oppose busing.
‘He never thought busing was the best way to integrate schools in Delaware — a position which most people now agree with,’ Russo said. ‘As he said during those many years of debate, busing would not achieve equal opportunity. And it didn’t.’
It was that opposition to busing that led – in part – to Eastland reaching out to Biden when the former vice president was a freshman senator and Eastland was a senior lawmaker.
Biden also wrote to Eastland during their time together in the Senate to thank him for his support for his anti-busing work. Eastland was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.
‘Dear Mr. Chairman,’ Biden wrote on June 30, 1977. ‘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.’
In the years since Biden has been a strong record for supporting civil rights.
But he is trying to stem back the tide of criticism coming at him this week in the wake of his remarks about working with Eastland and Talmadge as part of his call for working with the opposition.
Biden called Cory Booker Wednesday evening – but not to issue an apology after the two tussled in the public arena about the former vice president’s comments.
Booker, the first African American senator from New Jersey, had called on Biden to apologize for his remarks. The former vice president shot back that Booker should apologize to him.
Joe Biden said Cory Booker should apologize to him for doubting his record on race
The tone of the conversation was ‘conciliatory,’ according to The New York Times while Politico described the two as having a ‘polite conversation.’
Booker’s campaign did not back down on the senator’s call for Biden to apologize for his remarks.
‘Cory shared directly what he said publicly — including helping Vice President Biden understand why the word ‘boy’ is painful to so many,’ Sabrina Singh, Booker’s campaign spokeswoman, told Politico. ‘Cory believes that Vice President Biden should take responsibility for what he said and apologize to those who were hurt.’
‘Apologize for what?,’ Biden said to reporters Wednesday night outside a fundraiser in Maryland after his praise of the two senators was first reported.
‘There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period,’ he said.
And when asked about Booker’s call for him to apologize, Biden shot back it was the New Jersey senator who should apologize to him.
‘Cory should apologize,’ he said. ‘He knows better.’
Several of Biden’s rivals for the Democratic nomination called on him to apologize after the former vice president talked about working with the avowed segregationists in his early days in the Senate.
‘They know better,’ was Biden’s response.
‘Here’s the deal: I could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more. He was a segregationist. I ran for the United States Senate because I disagreed with the views of the segregationists,’ Biden said. ‘The point I’m making is, you don’t have to agree. You don’t have to like the people, in terms of their views. But you just simply make the case, and you beat them.’
Booker responded that Biden was deeply hurtful to the black community when he said one of the segregationist senators didn’t call him ‘boy.’
‘The vice president said I should know better and this is what I know. 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,’ Booker told CNN Wednesday night.
‘I know that segregationists like the two people he was talking about through their laws and their language deeply wounded this nation and the present day manifestations of their work can still be seen in black and brown communities like the one I go home to. I know that somebody running for president of the United States, somebody running to be the leader of our party should know that using the word ‘Boy’ in the way he did can cause hurt and pain and we need a presidential nominee and the leader of our party to be sensitive to that,’ he said.
Cory Booker said he wouldn’t apologize to Biden
‘I know that I was raised to speak truth to power, and that I should never apologize for doing that, and Vice President Biden shouldn’t need this lesson,’ Booker continued.
‘This is deeply disappointing. We waited for him to apologize. He didn’t,’ Booker noted.
‘He knows better. And at a time when Donald Trump never apologizes for anything and starts to create that kind of toxic sentiment that you never apologize, never apologize, never apologize. I know Joe Biden. He’s better than this,’ Booker concluded.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to get drug into the melee on Thursday.
‘I think that authenticity is the most important characteristic that candidates have to convey to the American people,’ she told reporters at the Capitol. ‘Joe Biden is authentic. He has lived his life. He considers certain things a resource, that he has worked across the aisle, that’s what he was saying
‘Joe Biden seems to have tremendous support in the African American community,’ she noted. ‘But that is for them to decide.’
‘I’m not going to go to that place,’ she declared.
Biden, at a fundraiser in Maryland Wednesday night, stressed his civil rights record and work with the late Senator Ted Kennedy in the Senate.
Biden said Kennedy was ‘the guy who got me on the Judiciary committee, we served from years and years. And we had to put up with the likes of like Jim Eastland and Hermy Talmadge and all those segregationists and all of that. And the fact of the matter is that we were able to do it because we were able to win – we were able to beat them on everything they stood for.’
‘We, in fact, detested what they stood for in terms of segregation and all the rest. And because of Teddy letting me become chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 1982, when he moved on to take on Health and Human Services, we were able to do so much. We restored the Voting Rights Act, we did it, and over time we extended it by 25 years not just five years,’ he added.
Biden adviser Symone Sanders, a prominent African American strategist and community organizer, went on CNN Thursday afternoon to defend the former vice president.
‘I want to be clear, the vice president didn’t embrace segregationists. He agrees that their views are repugnant and the language they had used and were using during that time is unacceptable and understands it’s hurtful to millions of Americans,’ she said.
The controversy surrounding the Democratic frontrunner began when words leaked from a fundraiser Biden held at the Carlyle hotel in Manhattan on Tuesday night and gained traction on Wednesday, Juneteenth – the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves during the Civil War.
Biden enjoys strong support from black voters.
A poll out earlier this month from the Black Economic Alliance, showed 67 per cent of black voters were enthusiastic about the former vice president’s candidacy. Biden beat out prominent black candidates Booker and Kamala Harris.
The former vice president was talking about his commitment to work with Republicans and opposition figures – a subject he often invokes on the campaign trail – but then bizarrely stressed his time working with fellow Democrats who spent decades in the Senate fighting desegregation efforts.
‘I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,’ Biden said of the Mississippi senator.
‘He never called me boy, he always called me son,’ Biden said, affecting a southern drawl, according to a pool reporter who was there.
Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate representing Delaware, also brought up Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge, who like Eastland promoted segregation and owned a plantation in his home state.
Kamala Harris (left) and Elizabeth Warren (right) disagreed with Biden’s remarks
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted an image of his family and blasted Biden’s comments
Biden referenced ‘a guy like Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys. Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done,’ Biden said.
‘We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore,’ said Biden.
His Democratic rivals pounced.
Booker said it wasn’t something to joke about.
‘You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’ Booker said in a statement Wednesday, after Biden’s comments at a New York hotel circulated.
‘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 continued.
‘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,’ Booker continued, before demanding an apology.
‘And frankly, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.’
Also pounding Biden was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a presidential candidate whose wife, Chirlane McCray, is African American.
In a tweet featuring a photo of his inter-racial family, de Blasio wrote: ‘It’s 2019 & @JoeBiden is longing for the good old days of ‘civility’ typified by James Eastland. Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to ‘the pursuit of dead n*ggers,’ he wrote in the first of a pair of tweets.
‘It’s past time for apologies or evolution from @JoeBiden. He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party,’ de Blasio continued.
Harris said of Biden’s remarks: ‘It concerns me deeply. If those men had their way, I wouldn’t be in the United States Senate.’
‘I appreciate the importance of working with people and finding common ground, but to suggest that individuals who literally made it their lives’ work to take America back on the issue of race is a real problem for me,’ she added.
Senator Elizabeth Warren said she wouldn’t criticize Biden but disagreed with his words.
‘I’m not here to criticize other Democrats, but it’s never OK to celebrate segregationists. Never,’ she said.
Joe Biden represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years
Coming to Biden’s defense on Wednesday was Rep. James C. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking African-American lawmaker in the U.S. House who is throwing his annual fish fry this coming weekend, drawing Biden and other presidential contenders.
Clyburn said his own work with the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948 while promoting segregation and served in the Senate for decades, was ‘similar to Biden working with Talmadge,’ Politico reported.
Biden has previously stressed his ability to win votes across Delaware, a state with a mix of urban and rural populations and a complicated history on matters of race and civil rights.
He made the comments at his Tuesday fundraiser as a way to stress the need ‘to reach consensus under our system’ – but ended up pointing to one of the most divisive political struggles in the nation’s history.
Earlier this week, speaking at the Poor People’s Campaign, the former vice president spoke about his home state’s racial history.
‘But my son Beau, before he died he was the attorney general. We were the only two Caucasian guys who won downstate, as they say, and won overwhelmingly in the black community,’ Biden said.
‘We couldn’t make up our mind, exactly, which side we wanted to be in the Civil War,’ he said of a state with the nation’s eighth largest black population that a history of slavery under the plantation system.
‘With a lot of poor folks down there, those poor folks — what they call ‘hanging chickens’ in the chicken industry … most of them Caucasian,’ he said, referencing farm jobs in Delaware.