Former Vice President Joe Biden is being criticized for highlighting his relationship with James Eastland — a Mississippi senator and noted segregationist — at a New York City fundraiser Tuesday night. 

Biden referenced Eastland while arguing for more civility in Washington, turning to his own lengthy career in the Senate, where he represented Delaware from 1973 to 2009. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” he told the crowd. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”  Eastland, the influential chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was the longest-serving Democrat in the chamber when Biden arrived in Washington. He was also one of the civil rights movement’s most militant opponents in Congress and an avowed white supremacist.  

Biden also referenced the segregationist Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge, another Democrat, whom he called “one of the meanest guys I ever knew,” before saying “at least there was some civility,” Biden said. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished.”

Two of Biden’s primary opponents were quick to attack him Wednesday. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker released a statement admonishing the former vice president, and Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a tweet with a photo of his biracial family.

Racial uproar explodes among 2020 Democrats as rivals attack Biden for comments about segregationists


Editorial credit: Jana Shea /