CNN Panel Slams Biden on Fondly Recalling Work With Segregationist Senators

'He is from an era, a bygone era, a time we want to forget'

June 19, 2019

White House reporter and CNN analyst April Ryan on Wednesday slammed Joe Biden for invoking two segregationists during remarks at a fundraiser and recalling the "civility" of the Senate in the 1970s and 1980s.

The New York Times reported Biden invoked the late Democratic Sens. James O. Eastland (Miss.) and Herman Talmadge (Ga.), who were both opposed to desegregation, during a fundraiser in New York City on Tuesday. He talked about the importance of "be[ing] able to reach consensus under our system" and said, "At least there was some civility. We got things done." Biden said he was in a caucus with him and reflected, "He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’"

Biden called Talmadge "one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys."

"Well guess what?" Biden continued. "At least there was some civility. We got things done. 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."

During a panel conversation on CNN's OutFront, Ryan said the United States is very divided today and noted how many young people who helped elect former President Barack Obama view Biden's comments as "giving adoration" to these segregationists. While Ryan understands Biden's side, she said this is a different era and that he would have to find a solution in order to bridge the gap.

Host Erin Burnett then chimed in to read a tweet from Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden's campaign, defending Biden's comments. After reading the tweet, CNN political contributor and The Nation's national affairs correspondent Joan Walsh offered critiques of Biden.

"The most important thing about Joe Biden right now is his standing with black voters and when he talks again and again as though he could work with segregationists and he could work with Mitch McConnell and he could work with even the modern Republican Party," Walsh said. " He's raising a question about why Barack Obama couldn't and I don't think he wants to be going there."

Burnett played multiple clips of Biden using insensitive language to describe minorities, including when he called Obama "articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy" in 2007. Burnett asked Ryan whether the clips "contextualize what he is saying now in a more disturbing light or not."

"At that time, Barack Obama had to come out and save Joe Biden with those comments. Remember that? They are in-artful. They are insensitive. He is from another time. For some, those could be Archie Bunker words, but he is from another time," Ryan said. "This is the problem that he has. He is from an era, a bygone era, a time we want to forget."

"You got to stop it. You got to stop it because we are now in the midst of a great divide .. That's one of the reasons why he didn't do a lot of interviews while he was in the White House because they were afraid of his openness, his candor," Ryan added.

Biden defended his comments Wednesday while speaking to reporters.

He told them his point was to highlight how he was able to accomplish things even when he didn't agree with his colleagues' views. He specifically responded to Sen. Cory Booker's (D., N.J.) criticism of him, saying, "Apologize for what? Cory should apologize."

"He knows better. There is not a racist bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period," Biden said.