Rep. John Lewis came to Joe Biden’s defense on Friday, saying the vice president’s remarks about working with segregationist senators wasn’t racist.
“I don’t think the remarks are offensive,” he told reporters outside the Capitol. “During the heights of the civil rights movement we worked with people and got to know people that were members of the klan. People who opposed us. Even people who beat us, arrested us and jailed us.”
Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, was a prominent civil rights leader who chaired the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, protested as a Freedom Rider, and helped coordinate the historic voting rights Selma to Montgomery March on Bloody Sunday in 1965.
“We never gave up on our fellow human beings,” he said. “I would not give up on any human being.”
Alan He, a reporter for CBS News, posted a video of the exchange.
VIDEO: Rep. John Lewis with a powerful defense of @JoeBiden: “I don’t think the remarks are offensive. During the height of the civil rights movement we worked with people and got to know people that were members of the klan…We never gave up on our fellow human being…” pic.twitter.com/NvkmurjsBG— Alan He (@alanhe) June 21, 2019
Mr. Biden, now a presidential contender himself, came under fire this week from members of his own party after praising his ability to work with egregationists early in his career, and joked about calling back men “boys.”
He used the comments as evidence that Capitol Hill used to be more civil, and people with differing ideologies could work together.
Other Democrats have criticized his remarks as offensive and racist, demanding an apology from the former Vice President.
“Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone,” Sen. Cory Booker, another 2020 candidate, wrote in a statement.
However, Mr. Biden, who served two terms with the nation’s first black president, rebuffed the critics, arguing he was owed an apology for being misrepresented.
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