Former Vice President Joe Biden apologized on Saturday over the pain he caused people with comments he made about his ability to work with segregationist senators.
“I regret it and I’m sorry for any of the pain or misconception they may have caused anybody,” Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, said during a campaign event in South Carolina. Biden said that he was “wrong” to “give the impression” that he was somehow praising segregationist senators.
His apology came after Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., highlighted race during the first round of Democratic primary debates — pointing to his comments about segregationist senators and his position on federally mandated busing.
After that debate, polling showed Biden’s lead narrowing among Democratic contenders while Harris saw a dramatic rise in support. Harris’ campaign did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
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Biden provoked criticism from Sens. Harris, Cory Booker, D-N.J., and others when he made the segregationist comments in June but refused to heed Booker’s call for an apology.
“Apologize for what?” he asked reporters who brought up Booker’s request. “Cory should apologize, he knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period. Period. Period.”
Biden drew support from some black leaders as well as Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black senator from his party. Scott said that Biden “should have used a different group of senators” to make his point but that his remarks “have nothing to do with his position on race” issues.
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Scott said the reaction reflects an intense environment for Democrats in which the desire to defeat Trump means “anything the front-runner says that is off by a little bit” will be magnified.
Biden also reportedly accepted responsibility for what went “wrong” with the 1994 crime bill — a controversial issue for him after he announced his presidential bid.
This wasn’t the first time Biden appeared to reverse course amid criticism from his Democratic colleagues. Amid an uproar from the 2020 field, Biden also changed his longstanding position on the Hyde Amendment which blocks federal funding for most abortions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.