Finally, after facing relentless criticism, Joe Biden apologized on Saturday for remarks he made weeks ago when speaking warmly about working with southern, segregationist Democrats in the Senate in the 1970s.
“Now, was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was. I regret it,” Biden said. “And I’m sorry for any of the pain or misconception they may have caused anybody.”
After receiving applause from the mostly black crowd gathered in the important early-voting state of South Carolina, Biden then asked should “that misstep define 50 years of my record for fighting for civil rights, racial justice in this country?”
Some in the audience said “no.” Biden then said, “I hope not.” Adding, “I don’t think so. That just isn’t an honest assessment of my record.”
Was it a full-throated apology? No. Instead, Biden went with the often-used and rarely acceptable “if I offended anyone that wasn’t my intent” apology. It’s a similar tact to the one he took when he semi-apologized to Anita Hill. Or when he said “sorry… not sorry” in April to the women he touched without their permission and made uncomfortable. But, some may see it as a positive step after the candidate who, for weeks, seemed defiant about the controversy.
Biden continued, “Everything [the segregationists] stood for offended me. They represented everything that I ran against. It would have been nice if the day President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, they and everything they stood for had been removed from the Senate, and from the political landscape of America. That’s not the real world.”
Biden and his handlers obviously took note of Kamala Harris’ rise and Biden’s dip in the polls after their exchange over busing during the Democratic debate weeks ago. So, his motivation is clear. Whether this half-hearted apology helps, however, remains to be seen.