Sen. Cory A. Booker continued criticizing fellow 2020 presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden on Sunday, saying although he respects the former vice president he had to “speak truth to power” and confront his colleague over the use of the word “boy.”
Other 2020 presidential candidates also shared concerns about Mr. Biden’s comments, which were made at a fundraiser in New York on Tuesday and have dogged the former vice president’s campaign for several days.
“This is about him invoking a terrible power dynamic,” Mr. Booker said during an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
The New Jersey Democrat had called for Mr. Biden to apologize last week after the former vice president said he worked with segregationists who called him “son” not “boy.”
Mr. Biden, though, refused to apologize and said his statements were in reference to working with people he strongly disagreed with, noting “at least there was some civility.” He said Mr. Booker should know better and also called for an apology.
Mr. Booker said the use of the term showed “a lack of understanding or sensitivity.”
Both candidates were in South Carolina this weekend and attended Rep. James E. Clyburn’s fish fry on Friday where they were reportedly spotted speaking, according to CNN. The two men also talked earlier in the week about the spat.
Mr. Booker said they had a constructive conversation where he was able to be straightforward with his fellow 2020 contender about the racial insensitivity of using the term “boy.”
Mr. Biden said he used the word in reference to the difference in ages between the senators back when he was first elected to the Senate at 29 and understands it could be offensive to black men — though he insisted he didn’t use it in that context.
“To the extent that anybody thought that I meant something different, that is not what I intended,” Mr. Biden said, according to CNN. “It’d be wrong for anybody to intend that.”
Other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates were prodded to weigh in.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris, California Democrat, took issue with Mr. Biden praising segregationists.
“We cannot be ignorant of the history of race in this country, and certainly anyone who is a leader should not be,” she told CBS on Sunday. “That is a very loaded term.”
And Julian Castro, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, said he wouldn’t have spoken in that way without putting the term in more context.
“I definitely understand why people were offended,” Mr. Castro told CNN on Sunday.
“My hope is that in this campaign all of us can focus on what we are going to do to make sure that we make progress in this country because we are still not at the point where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin,” he added.
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