Kamala Harris and Joe Biden squared off in a fiery one-on-one on Thursday night after the California senator challenged the vice president’s civil rights record at NBC’s 2020 presidential debate.
When the debate reached the subject of race in America, Harris went after Biden over his recent comments about getting work done in Congress with segregationists.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, addressing Biden, “and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe — and it is personal — it was actually very hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputation and career on the segregation of race.”
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school. And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me,” Harris said, as Biden looked on stoically.
Bien was given a chance to respond, and he went on the defensive, calling Harris’s comments “a mischaracterization of my position across the board.”
“I did not praise racists, that is not true,” Biden said. “If we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I’m happy to do that.”
He then took a shot at Harris’s career as a prosecutor: “I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor. I came out and left a good law firm to become a public defender when, in fact, my city was in flames because of the assassination of Dr. King.”
Biden defended his record by citing his work with former president Barack Obama and arguing that the bussing grievances Harris cited were a city council matter. Harris pressed the former vice president on this, asking “do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose bussing in America then?”
“I did not oppose bussing in America,” Biden responded. “What I opposed is bussing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.”
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