“Right now, the vice president to me is not doing a good job at bringing folks together. In fact, he’s caused — and I’ve heard this from people all around the country — he’s causing a lot of frustration and even pain with his words,” Booker told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”
In his interview, the New Jersey senator cast doubt on Biden’s ability to “talk openly and honestly” about race in America, citing comments Biden has made recently about race.
“Whoever our nominee is going to be, whoever the next president is going to be, really needs to be someone who can talk openly and honestly about race with vulnerability because none of us are perfect. But really call this country to common ground, to reconciliation,” Booker said. “I’m not sure if Vice President Biden is up to that task given the way this last three weeks have played out.”
Biden has faced criticism after he recently pointed to his ability to work with two late segregationist senators, saying such work was accomplished during an era where “at least there was some civility” in the Senate.
Booker, who lambasted Biden earlier this month for his remarks, saying the former vice president should apologize for them, argued on Sunday that Biden has been unable to “talk candidly” about race following the controversy.
“When it comes to difficult issues with race, if you can’t talk openly and honestly about your own development on these issues, I think it’s very hard to lead our country forward so that we actually can deal with our past and rise to a better common cause and common future,” he said.
Biden had called Booker about his relationship decades ago with racist senators. Booker then told MSNBC in an interview that he had a “good, constructive conversation” — one that lasted about 15-20 minutes. Booker had taken issue, in part, with Biden telling donors at a fundraising event in New York: “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’ “
Booker also took aim at Biden for comments the 2020 Democratic frontrunner made on Friday at a Rainbow PUSH Coalition event on the west side of Chicago.
“We need to reform criminal justice, to make sure black mothers feel confident when they send their child, their son, out on the street — he’s going to be safe,” Biden said in Chicago. “We have to recognize that kid wearing the hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger.”
Booker told Todd that the comments are “just another example of conversations or lessons that Joe Biden shouldn’t have to learn,” saying that “as a guy growing up, as a young black guy in America” he was “followed … faced that indignity and even the danger of that, being perceived to be a threat.”