Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to activists at Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow/Push Coalition on Friday, delivering a lengthy speech defending his civil rights record after Sen. Kamala Harris highlighted his opposition to public busing during Thursday’s debate.
“I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris,” Joe Biden said. “But we all know that 30 seconds and 60 seconds on a debate exchange can’t do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights.”
Biden argued that he “never ever” opposed voluntary public busing but did not mention working with segregationists to block federally mandated public busing and even described the practice as “asinine.”
Biden’s tone was defensive, but he did not apologize for his past.
“I’ve always been in favor of using federal authorities to overcome state initiated segregation,” he said, pointing to his eventual efforts to block the Gurney amendment.
Biden listed several ways that he had defended the civil rights movement, including his work with former President Barack Obama.
“My president gets much too little credit for all that he did, he was one of the great president’s of the United States of America and I’m tired of hearing about what he didn’t do,” Biden said as the audience cheered.
Biden’s appearance at Jackson’s meeting was not on his campaign schedule, and it was a surprise to see him embrace the controversial activist.
Jackson did not have a warm relationship with President Barack Obama, especially after Jackson was caught on Fox News talking about wanting to “cut his nuts off.”
Biden said that Americans had to stop viewing black teenagers as “gang bangers.”
“We’ve got to recognize that kid wearing a hoodie maybe will be the next poet laureate and not a gang banger,” he said.
Biden took the stage with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden and spent several minutes prior to his speech talking about the importance of women and daughters.
“When the daughter is about 12 1/2 years old, you put this little butterfly to bed and you kiss her goodnight and the next morning there’s a snake in the bed,” he said, describing all of the demands of a growing teenager.
He also raised the alarm of what was happening to America under Trump, blaming him for the Charlottesville protests and claiming that Trump failed to condemn white supremacists.
“Folks, we’re in a position now, where the American people have seen the very dark side of America, every generation is saying ‘Enough,’” Biden said. “We have a chance, a real chance, we have a chance if we stand up and remember who we are.”