Former First Lady Michelle Obama will not be coming to former Vice President Joe Biden’s defense anytime soon as he faces severe criticism from members of the Democratic Party for recently praising two white segregationists as examples in political civility.
Speaking with Gayle King on Saturday at the Essence Festival, Michelle Obama refused to comment on the brewing feud between Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Joe Biden as they fight for the 2020 nomination.
“I’ve been doing this rodeo far too long,” Obama said in response to King’s question about the controversy, according to ABC News. “And no comment.”
Joe Biden stepped into some serious trouble last month when he reminisced about working closely with two Democratic segregationists to get bills passed during his rookie years in the United States Senate.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said, reportedly in a southern accent. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”
Sen. James O. Eastland (D-MS) fervently opposed civil rights and has been referred to as the “Voice of the White South.” Biden also held up Sen. Herman Talmadge (D-GA) as an example of political civility — a man whom Biden described as being “one of the meanest guys I ever knew.”
“Well guess what? At least there was some civility,” he said of Talmadge. “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.”
At the first Democratic Party presidential debate, Kamala Harris used Biden’s comments against him when she publicly accused him on national television of being insensitive on race relations. Polls following the debate showed his lead dropping significantly.
“It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing,” Harris said on the debate stage. “And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
Though Biden largely refused to back down from his comments, he finally caved to the political pressure over the weekend when he expressed “regret” for what he had said of Eastland and Talmadge.
“Was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men whom I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was,” Biden said. “I regret it, and I’m sorry for any of the pain or misconception maybe I caused anybody.”
In the same interview with King on Saturday, Michelle Obama reiterated that she and her husband will not be endorsing Joe Biden (or any candidate) until after the primary has concluded.
“Barack and I are going to support whoever wins the primary, so … our primary focus is letting the primary process play out, because it’s very early,” she said. “I mean, that’s one of the things that we learned in the campaign. It is early; it’s like trying to figure out who’s winning the World Series on the first seven games. I mean that’s where we are right now, it is so early.”