Jill Biden says California Sen. Kamala Harris implied her husband Joe Biden is racist with her attack on the former vice president during the first Democratic presidential debate.
In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo airing on Monday, Jill Biden called Harris’ criticism of Biden over race and segregation “the biggest surprise” to her in the party’s 2020 race so far — but said voters “didn’t buy it.”
Her comments come as Biden and Harris battle to win over black voters, a crucial constituency in the Democratic nominating contest. Biden has pointed to his time as former President Barack Obama’s vice president as well as his own legacy on civil rights to defend himself, while Harris has taken aim at elements of Biden’s earlier career in the Senate.
In the late-June debate, Harris criticized Biden’s comments at a private fundraiser earlier in the month about the “civility” of the Senate during an era in which he worked with segregationists in the chamber. She also lambasted his early-career opposition to federally mandated busing.
“I think that they were looking at the past. I mean, the one thing you cannot say about Joe is that he’s a racist. I mean, he got into politics because of his commitment to civil rights. And then to be elected with Barack Obama, and then someone is saying, you know, you’re a racist?” she said.
Cuomo responded that Harris had begun her criticism of Biden by saying she does not believe he is racist.
“I know, but as soon as I heard those words, I thought, ‘uh oh, what’s coming next,'” Jill Biden said.
She added: “The American people know Joe Biden. They know his values. They know what he stands for. And they didn’t buy it.”
Joe Biden, meanwhile, said he’s been most surprised that the attacks have come from Democrats who know him.
“I’ve been surprised, not about the attacks, but I’ve been surprised at the intentions sometimes of the attacks, coming from people who know me,” the former vice president said.
“It doesn’t make me second-guess, but it makes me decide that — look, this race is about the future, man,” he said. “And we can go back and pick everybody’s record apart, if you want to go back 20, 30, 40 years, and take it out of context, because no one knows the context of the moment. And so it’s really easy to distort. It just surprised me a little bit, some of the stuff that’s come out, in terms of the attack lines. But I’m not going to go there.”
In the interview, the Bidens also praised Hunter Biden for opening up in a recent interview with The New Yorker about his struggle with addiction.
“Look, everybody faces pain,” Hunter Biden said in the interview. “Everybody has trauma. There’s addiction in every family. I was in that darkness. I was in that tunnel — it’s a never-ending tunnel. You don’t get rid of it. You figure out how to deal with it.”
The youngest Biden son, whose older brother, Beau, died after a battle with brain cancer in 2015, has been in and out of rehab several times. In 2014, he was discharged from the Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine.
“We’ve seen the struggle, and we know that most American families are dealing with some sort of struggle like we are,” Jill Biden said. “And I think they can relate to us, you know, as parents who are hopeful and are supportive of our son, and we will continue to be supportive. And I think that makes us more empathetic about helping other Americans.”
“He will beat this. This kid, I’m telling you — you know, knew Beau. Beau’s my soul. Hunter’s my heart,” Joe Biden said. “And Hunter’s been through some tough times, but he’s fighting. He’s fighting. He’s never given up. He’s the most honorable, decent person I know.”