Kamala Harris responds to criticism that she delivered “low blow” to Joe Biden

2020 contender Kamala Harris came out swinging with a memorable performance in the second night of Democratic debates in Miami.  It was Harris’ confrontation with former Vice President Joe Biden where she pressured to get him on the record on his past support of segregation-endorsing Democrats and as well as his past stance against busing to desegregate public schools, that left a mark on would-be voters’ minds. 

In an interview with “CBS This Morning” Friday, Harris responded to criticism from Biden’s camp that the contentious moment was a “low blow.”

“It was about just speaking truth and as I’ve said many times, I have a great deal of respect for Joe Biden…but he and I disagree on that,” Harris said. 

She added, “My purpose was to really just make sure that in this conversation we are appreciating the impact on real people of policies that have been pushed in the history of our country.”

The California Democrat stood out amongst the packed crowd of 10 candidates on stage, eliciting some of the loudest applause after she forced moderators to give her time to answer a question on race relations — noting that she was the only African American present on the debate stage. 

Harris later said she does not believe the former vice president is a racist but called his statement about finding “common ground” with segregationists personally “hurtful” to people of color like her.

“It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day,” Harris, 54, told Biden. “That little girl was me.”

“That’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board,” Biden shot back at Harris, defending his support for civil rights and highlighting his work as a public defender.

Harris explained to CBS that the issue was a clearly a personal one for her. 

“If segregationists had their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate today,  I would not be a top contender to be president of the United States,” Harris said. 

Biden has lately been heavily scrutinized for his problematic past with America’s black communities. In the 1970s, Biden opposed busing to desegregate public schools, later explaining he opposed “busing ordered by the Department of Education.”

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he oversaw the contentious Anita Hill hearings during the confirmation process for then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991.

He also helped spearhead efforts to pass the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which many believe fueled a period of mass incarceration that disproportionately affected African Americans and other minority groups.

Asked if Biden’s past remarks and standpoints disqualify him from ever being president, Harris said that was an issue for the voters to decide. 

Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed to this report.

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