CHICAGO — Former Vice President Joe Biden addressed Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition in Chicago Friday, a day after a dramatic confrontation over his civil rights record on the Democratic presidential debate stage.
California Sen. Kamala Harris blasted Biden on Thursday for recently defending having worked with segregationists in the Senate and for opposing mandatory busing of students to desegregated public schools decades ago.
The moment became a sensation for Harris and left Biden saying his record had been mischaracterized. But it made him look unsure of himself for long stretches.
The address, in front of mostly African Americans, a key demographic that helped him build an early lead in Democratic primary polls, was somewhat of a do-over for Bide.
“30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate can’t do justice to a lifetime commitment to civil rights,” he said. “ I never, never, never opposed voluntary busing. If I am elected president, I will be a president who stands against racism.”
Before Biden’s do-over, Rev. Jackson, a civil rights icon, did not menace words.
“We stand on a different side of history,” he said. “State’s rights is on a different side of history than the civil rights struggle. Kamala Harris last night was right when she challenged state’s rights.”
Jackson was asked if he thinks the controversy will hurt Biden among African Americans.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s too early to say. The election is not this November, it’s next November.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot also spoke at the luncheon. She called on the presidential candidates to come up with an urban renewal program to address poverty and injustice.
“Comprehensive and coordinated economic planning and true access to the basic community building blocks,” Lightfoot said.
Several other Democratic president hopefuls will be stopping by Rainbow PUSH events including Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Tulsi Gabbard.