Biden showed 'a lack of understanding ... insensitivity': Sen. Cory Booker

Booker spoke after a back-and-forth with Joe Biden over comments Biden made.

June 23, 2019, 11:30 AM

Days ahead of the first Democratic debates and following a week of back-and-forth with former Vice President Joe Biden over comments he made about finding consensus with Southern Democrats in the Senate who supported segregation, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said Biden did not seem to fully grasp the impact his comments on the African-American community, during an interview on ABC's "This Week."

"He is a presidential nominee, and to say something -- and again, it's not about working across the aisle, if anything I've made that a hallmark of my time in the Senate, to get big things done and legislation passed -- this is about him invoking a terrible power dynamic that he showed a lack of understanding or insensitivity to by invoking this idea that he was called 'son' by white segregationists who, yeah, they see in him their son," Booker told Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz.

On Wednesday, Booker released a statement with strongly worded language calling on the former vice president to apologize for praising segregationist senators while at a fundraiser. That same day -- which happened to be Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the abolition of slavery -- Booker had testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee on reparations.

"You don’t joke about calling black men 'boys,'" Booker wrote. "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."

Biden initially called on Booker to apologize to him, saying "he knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body."

He added Saturday during an event in South Carolina that his use of the word "boy" was taken out of context and that "it'd be wrong for anybody to intend [otherwise.]"

On "This Week," Booker explained that in the wake of Biden's original remarks, he's heard from "many African-Americans" who told him that they found the words "hurtful," but he also characterized the the vice president's comments as a "mistake," though one that the former vice president should have been more mindful of.

"We make mistakes. We sometimes tread upon issues that maybe we aren't knowledgeable of," the senator said. "I don't think the vice president should need this lesson, but this was a time for him to be healing and to be helpful -- especially the time that he is looking to bring this party together and lead us in what is the most important election of our lifetime."

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker speaks at Rep. Jim Clyburns World Famous Fish Fry on June 21, 2019 in Columbia, S.C.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker speaks at Rep. Jim Clyburns World Famous Fish Fry on June 21, 2019 in Columbia, S.C.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

According to ABC News reporting, Biden called Booker shortly after a CNN interview to talk about the situation. Booker said Sunday on "This Week" that while he was disappointed, the pair "had a very constructive conversation" and that he maintains "a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for the vice president."

"That's why, again, I felt it really, really important, especially with our friends, not to sweep things under the rug, but to be candid and straightforward with each other," Booker said.

By Friday night, both Biden and Booker were seen shaking hands at Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn’s "World Famous Fish Fry" in Columbia, South Carolina, a gathering that attracted an additional 19 members of the crowded presidential field.

Clyburn remarked that a few days ago that he was surprised Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the two African-American candidates in the race, were not receiving more support in his home state, where roughly 60% of Democratic voters are black, and that Booker "is suffering from the shadows ... of Barack Obama."

As has been his response to questions about his standing in the polls throughout the year thus far, Booker said on "This Week" that it is still very early in the race.

"We have 230 days before there's voting in Iowa. It's a very, very long time. And so I'm very confident the campaign that we're running here," the senator said, adding, "You invoked President Obama, he was polling well behind … [then-Sen. Hillary] Clinton at this point in the polls."

"Polling this far out... has very little indication about who will ultimately be the nominee," Booker said.

Raddatz also asked the member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about his views on the president's actions with regard to Iran.

Booker said the U.S. is in a "weaker position."

"There is no strategy here," Booker said on Sunday. "We have a president that seems to be doing this like a reality TV show in trying to build more drama, trying to make foreign policy by tweet."

Booker, who has previously called President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal an "abdication of American leadership", blasted the president again on Friday for his dealings with the Middle Eastern country after it shot down a U.S. unmanned military drone earlier in the week. Trump had reportedly authorized a retaliatory strike against Iran, but called it off 10 minutes before it was carried out.

"As I have said, this Administration’s clear march to war has dramatically increased the potential for miscalculation that threatens to turn even a minor dispute into a regional conflagration that would be more devastating than our misguided war in Iraq," Booker said in a statement on Friday.

The shooting of the military drone comes days after a Japanese-owned tanker was attacked in the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran denied being involved in. Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have continued intensifying a "maximum pressure" on Iran, launching strict sanctions against the country.

"The President together with his top officials have been bent on escalating an already tenuous situation in the Middle East, with no plan in place to de-escalate tensions," Booker said. "This is a crisis of his own making — his reckless and erratic Iran policy is responsible for this combustible moment."

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