Harris explained that she didn’t believe Biden was a racist but expressed concerns over his past work with segregationist senators to oppose busing to integrate schools.
“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 bussed to school every day,” she said. “And that little girl was me.”
Watch the video below, via NBC News:
Biden quickly tried to dismiss the criticisms as “a mischaracterization of [his] position across the board.”
In response, he touted his record on civil rights, his time in the White House with former President Barack Obama, and his past work as a public defender. But Biden’s specific denial on opposition to busing stands out:
“The fact is that, in terms of busing, the busing, I never — you would have been able to go to school the same exact way because it was a local decision made by your city council. That’s fine. That’s one of the things I argued for, that we should not be — we should be breaking down these lines.”
Asked by Harris if he now believes he was wrong to oppose busing, Biden gave another denial: “I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.”
While Biden’s comments on Thursday focused on opposition to federally mandated busing, his past comments suggest a broader opposition to the concept. A March Washington Post article resurfaced some of Biden’s most unequivocal statements on the issue from a 1975 interview with a local Delaware paper:
“I oppose busing. It’s an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me,” he said. “I’ve gotten to the point where I think our only recourse to eliminate busing may be a constitutional amendment.”
In his 2007 book, “Promises to Keep,” Biden summarized his position on the issue: “I was against busing to remedy de facto segregation owing to housing patterns and community comfort, but if it was intentional segregation, I’d personally pay for helicopters to move the children.”
The former vice president’s record on civil rights is far more complex than his view on the single issue of busing. Biden played a role in the Senate in extending and amending the Voting Rights Act in 1975, 1982, and 2006. During his time as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden led the push to block Jeff Sessions from a judicial nomination over allegations of racism. Recently, Biden has expressed support for the restoration of voting rights for felons and automatic voter registration.
But the claim that he did not oppose busing is false, Biden was clear in his past opposition to federally mandated busing, but he also criticized the broader concept of busing.