Sen. Cory Booker accused Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden on Friday of not having the right “language” to talk about race that’s needed to win the party’s 2020 nomination.
Booker’s comment came after Biden spoke about race relations in the U.S. during an appearance in Chicago earlier in the day.
“That kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger,” Biden said, making a rhetorical point during his remarks at the headquarters of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a group of nonprofits organized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
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But Booker, an African-American senator from New Jersey, took issue with Biden’s use of the word “hoodie.”
“This isn’t about a hoodie,” Booker wrote on Twitter. “It’s about a culture that sees a problem with a kid wearing a hoodie in the first place. Our nominee needs to have the language to talk about race in a far more constructive way.”
Other Twitter users also took Biden to task, claiming his use of the word “gangbanger” was racially insensitive.
The blowback against Biden came less than 24 hours after his onstage clash in Miami with another 2020 White House hopeful, Sen. Kamala Harris, during Thursday night’s second Democratic presidential debate.
Biden and Harris tangled over the issue of school desegregation. Harris attacked Biden’s decades-ago work with segregationist senators, making the point personal by explaining she was a member of only the second class of black children in California to be bused to school in an effort to force desegregation.
“That little girl was me,” Harris said directly to the former vice president in a moment that has since gone viral.
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But in Chicago on Friday, Biden defended his record on racial issues.
“I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris,” Biden said. “But we all know that 30-60 seconds on campaign debate exchange can’t do justice to a lifetime commitment to civil rights.”
Then, speaking directly to 77-year-old Jackson, whose long career has included two presidential runs and work with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he said: “I know you know I fought my heart out to ensure civil rights and voting rights and equal rights are enforced everywhere.”
Biden insisted he “never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing.”
Booker’s Friday tweet followed his previous criticism of Biden for reminiscing over his work with two long-dead segregationist senators, Democrats James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. During a New York fundraiser last Tuesday, Biden brought up the two senators to argue that Washington functioned more smoothly a generation ago than under today’s “broken” hyperpartisanship.
“We didn’t agree on much of anything,” Biden said of the two men, who were prominent lawmakers when Biden was first elected in 1972. Biden described Talmadge as “one of the meanest guys I ever knew” and said Eastland called him “son,” though not “boy,” a reference to the racist way many whites addressed black men at the time.
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“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys.’ Booker said responding to Biden’s speech. “Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity,” Booker said in a statement last week, according to the Hill.
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.