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Biden called Booker to quell tensions. Things only got worse


Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden called Sen. Cory Booker but still would not apologize for evoking to segregationist senators at a fundraiser. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

After Sen. Cory Bookerappeared on CNNon Wednesday night sounding off on Joe Biden’s recent comments surrounding segregationists, the New Jersey Democratgot a phone call — it was the former vice president.

Biden, however, didn’t apologize for his remarks at a New York fundraiser recalling that “at least there was some civility” when he worked with segregationists in the Senate and that one of those senators “never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”

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Nor did he apologize for telling reporters outside a fundraiser on Wednesday that it was Booker, one of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, who needed to apologize.

The two carried on a polite conversation, with the former vice president intent on talking through tensions that had flared in recent days, according to two sources familiar with the call.

But that didn’t happen. Biden’s campaign had sent talking points to surrogates that highlighted the vice president’s work on civil rights and noted that Biden’s opponents had worked with officials who might be considered lightning rods to Democrats, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — a move that further inflamed the situation.

“I find it remarkable that the surrogate talking points they were sending around, as they were trying to contain this, include no mention of the language the vice president used and instead tried to spin that the vice president is being criticized for working with people he disagreed with,” a Booker aide said. “That’s nonsense and speaks volumes to what they know is true, which is, he should be apologizing for what he said.”

On Thursday, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), a Biden campaign co-chairman and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, defended Biden.

“This is really a media issue and it’s an issue that’s going around on social media. But people are not talking about this,” Richmond said. “People want an elected official to get things done. So whether it’s the black caucus working with President Trump last year to get criminal justice done or working with some very unsavory, racist characters back in the day, the goal is to get things done. They are elected and they have a vote, and in order to pass legislation you have to have more votes than not.”

A Biden campaign official confirmed that the call happened but did not comment further.

Booker’s campaign on Thursday was still calling on Biden to take responsibility 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,” said Sabrina Singh, Booker’s campaign spokeswoman. “Cory believes that Vice President Biden understands why the word ‘boy’ is painful to so many. Cory believes that Vice President Biden should take responsibility for what he said and apologize to those who were hurt.”

The flare-up erupted after Biden, at a fundraiser earlier in the week, reminisced about how he was able to “bring people together” and could even work with the late Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia.

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said, and even imitated the senator’s Southern drawl, according to the pool report that night. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”

Booker took exception with the comments and said as much in a statement early Wednesday.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’” Booker said. Booker later said on CNN: “Vice President Biden shouldn’t need this lesson.”

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