Speed Reads

2020 Democratic debates

Biden defends his 'lifetime committed to civil rights' after Harris debate criticism

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday defended his record on civil rights issues after facing heavy criticism from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during Thursday's Democratic debate.

In the debate, Harris called out Biden for having opposed busing, to which Biden defended himself by saying that he only opposed "busing ordered by the Department of Education."

During a speech at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on Friday, Biden said, "I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris, but we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights."

Biden went on to say that he "never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing," saying he has "always been in favor of using federal authority to overcome state initiated segregation." He also said that he has "fought my heart out to ensure that civil rights and voting rights, equal rights, are enforced everywhere" and that "these rights are not up to the states to decide" but are the "federal government's duty to decide."

Biden in a 1975 interview said that "I oppose busing," which he called "an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me," The Washington Post reports, with his campaign spokesperson telling the Post in March that Biden "never thought busing was the best way to integrate schools in Delaware."

The former vice president has continued to face criticism for his past stance on busing following the debate, with Jesse Jackson saying on Friday that Biden was on "the wrong side of history" and that Harris was "on point." Brendan Morrow