Cory Booker fired back Wednesday night at 2020 rival Joe Biden after the former vice president said that it was the New Jersey senator, not he, who should apologize over the recent controversy in which Biden spoke fondly of his time working with segregationist senators.
Biden called Booker on Wednesday night after Booker’s CNN interview, a person familiar with the call said, declining to discuss details of the conversation.
Speaking at a Tuesday fundraiser, Biden had pointed to Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, two Southern Democrats who opposed civil rights and desegregation, as examples of senators with whom he worked in the 1970s despite not agreeing with their views.
Several of Biden’s 2020 rivals, including Booker, quickly criticized him for praising segregationists and called on him to apologize. Biden on Wednesday night refused those calls.
“Apologize for what?” Biden told CNN when asked about Booker’s call outside a fundraiser Wednesday evening in Rockville, Maryland. “Cory should apologize. He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career.”
Speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight,” Booker was defiant, saying he believed Biden’s comments were “so insulting.”
“I know that I was raised to speak truth to power, and I will never apologize for doing that, and Vice President Biden shouldn’t need this lesson,” he said.
Booker added, “For his posture to be, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong, you should apologize, I’m not a racist,’ is so insulting and so missing the larger point that he should not have to have explained to him, that this is not a lesson that someone who is running for president of the united states should have to be given.”
Earlier Wednesday, Booker testified before a House panel during a hearing on reparations for slavery. As the first witness to speak, he talked about his experiences in low-income, black neighborhoods and the injustices he saw.
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.