Former Vice President Joe Biden called Sen. Cory Booker on Wednesday night, Booker said Thursday, after the New Jersey Democrat called Biden’s recent comments about working with segregationist senators “so insulting” in an interview with CNN.
Booker said in an interview on MSNBC Thursday night that he had a “good, constructive conversation” with Biden – one that lasted about 15-20 minutes.
“At the end of the day, this is not about me, it’s not about him, it’s about where our country is,” Booker said.
“We have real race issues in our country, and we need leaders, plural, presidential candidates or not, that can bring folks together, can deepen understanding and empathy and can get us to a point where we can begin to work on a lot of the issues that have deep scarred legacies in our country,” Booker said.
The call came following a tense day in which Booker called on Biden – his front-running rival for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination – to apologize for touting his relationship decades ago with racist senators. No apologies were exchanged during the conversation, according to two sources familiar with the exchange.
Biden’s communications director, Kate Bedingfield, declined to comment Friday on Biden’s side of the conversation.
“He was happy to talk to Sen. Booker. He obviously has the utmost respect for him,” Bedingfield said on CNN’s “New Day,” adding, “He had a good conversation with Sen. Booker.”
Before the call, Booker had taken issue, in part, with Biden telling donors at a fundraising event Tuesday in New York: “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’ “
Biden, in turn, said Booker was the one who should apologize, telling CNN outside a fundraiser Wednesday evening in Rockville, Maryland: “He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career.”
Booker told MSNBC that for Biden “to dredge it up in the way that he did, in a way that harms and … hurts – we had a very constructive conversation about that.”
“I let him know he’s someone that I respect,” Booker added.
In the phone call, Booker “shared directly what he said publicly,” said Booker campaign press secretary Sabrina Singh, “including helping Vice President Biden understand why the word ‘boy’ is painful to so many.”
“Cory believes that Vice President Biden should take responsibility for what he said and apologize to those who were hurt,” Singh added.
Booker on Wednesday appeared on “CNN Tonight,” telling host Don Lemon that he would not back down from his criticism of the vice president.
“I was raised to speak truth to power,” Booker said in the interview. “And I will never apologize for doing that and Vice President Biden shouldn’t need this lesson.”
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Arlette Saenz and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this story.