President Joe Biden on Friday reminisced about bringing back “the old days” in the U.S. Senate when he was able to sit down for a bite with “real segregationists” in Washington, despite disagreeing with them.
“You know, things have kind of changed since the days when I first got there,” Biden told a crowd at a manufacturing plant in Hamilton on Friday, video shows. “I was there, I got elected when I was 29 years old in the United States Senate, from a very modest background. And I was there for 36 years before becoming vice president.
“We always used to fight like hell. And even back in the old days when we had real segregationists like Eastland and Thurmond and all those guys,” he said, referring to former segregationist senators James Eastland (D-Miss.) and Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
“But at least we’d end up eating lunch together. Things have changed. We gotta bring it back,” the president concluded.
Biden made the controversial remarks at the United Performance Metals facility, located about 30 miles north of Cincinnati, where he was joined by both of Ohio’s US senators, Fox News reported.
Biden’s comments sparked immediate backlash online.
“Segregationists were famously chill about who got to eat lunch together,” joked Dan Mclaughlin, a senior reporter at the National Review, in a tweet Friday.
“Nothing like a hot lunch with a segregationist…” quipped conservative political commentator David Rubin.
“Biden is wistful for the good old days of senatorial comity with open racists who fought for & defended state-imposed racial segregation,” tweeted Washington Examiner DOJ reporter Jerry Dunleavy.
“That’s nothing to be proud of Mr. President,” said NFL Hall of Famer and sports talk show host Shannon Sharpe.
This is not the first time Biden has been slammed for discussing how he previously worked with segregationist colleagues in the Senate.
At a presidential campaign fundraiser in New York City in 2019, Biden talked to supporters about how he had worked with Sens. Eastland and Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) – who opposed integration – in the 1970s to get things done.
He noted that Eastland never called him “boy,” a derogatory term for black men.
Biden’s comments led to a fiery exchange with his now Vice-President Kamala Harris while she was still running for president during a Democratic debate in June 2019.
“I do not believe you are racist,” Harris, who was part of the second class to integrate her public school in California growing up, told her future running mate.
“But I also believe, and it is personal — it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and careers on the segregation of race in this country,” Harris had said.
At a campaign event one month later in South Carolina in July 2019, Biden said he was wrong to work with senators like Eastland early in his career.
“Was I wrong a few weeks ago? Yes, I was, and I regret it,” he said.