Transcript of the Kamala Harris and Joe Biden Heated Exchange
Kamala Harris went after Joe Biden on the issue of race and busings in America in the second night of the Democratic Debates Thursday night. Many believe this tense exchange benefited Harris and hurt Biden early in the race to be the Democratic nominee. See a full transcript of the exchange below:
Kamala Harris: 03:48 I would like to speak on the issue of race.
Rachel Maddow: 03:50 Senator Harris [crosstalk 00:03:55].
Kamala Harris: 03:55 What I will say is that I [crosstalk 00:03:57].
Rachel Maddow: 03:57 Preface this, we will give you 30 seconds. We’re going to come back to you on this again in just a moment. Go for 30 seconds.
Kamala Harris: 04:02 Okay. On the issue of race I couldn’t agree more that this is an issue that is still not being talked about truthfully and honestly. There is not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend, or a coworker who has not been the subject of some form of profiling or discrimination.
Kamala Harris: 04:21 Growing up my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents said couldn’t play with us because we were black.
Kamala Harris: 04:29 I will say also that in this campaign we’ve also heard … I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden. I do not believe you are a racist. I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.
Kamala Harris: 04:47 I also believe … It’s personal. It was actually hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.
Kamala Harris: 05:06 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. She was bused to school every day. That little girl was me.
Kamala Harris: 05:28 I will tell you that on this subject it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly. As Attorney General of California, I was very proud to put in place a requirement that all my special agents would wear body cameras and keep those cameras on.
Rachel Maddow: 05:47 Senator Harris, thank you. Vice President Biden, you have been invoked. We are going to [crosstalk 00:05:53] chance to respond. Vice President Biden.
Joe Biden: 06:03 It’s a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I do not praise racists. That is not true. Number one. Number two, if we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not I’m happy to do that.
Joe Biden: 06:17 I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor. I came out and I left a good law firm to become a public defender when, in fact, my city was in flames because of the assassination of Dr. King. Number one.
Joe Biden: 06:32 Now number two as the Vice President of the United States I work with a man who, in fact, we worked very hard to see to it we dealt with these issues in a major, major way.
Joe Biden: 06:44 The fact is in terms of busing the busing I never … You would have been able to go to school the same exact way because it was a local decision made by your city council. That’s fine. That’s one of the things I argued for that we should be breaking down these lines.
Joe Biden: 07:00 The bottom line here is, look, everything I’ve done in my career … I ran because of civil rights. I continue to think we have to make fundamental changes in civil rights. Those civil rights, by the way, include not just only African-Americans but the LGBT community.
Kamala Harris: 07:15 Vice President Biden, do you agree today, do you agree today, that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then?
Joe Biden: 07:24 No.
Kamala Harris: 07:24 Do you agree?
Joe Biden: 07:25 I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed. I did not oppose …
Kamala Harris: 07:34 Well, there was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.
Joe Biden: 07:46 Because your city council made that decision. It was a local decision.
Kamala Harris: 07:49 That’s where the federal government must step in.
Joe Biden: 07:55 [crosstalk 00:07:55].
Kamala Harris: 07:55 That’s why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. That’s why we need to pass the Equality Act. That’s why we need to pass the ERA because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.
Joe Biden: 08:05 I have supported the ERA from the very beginning when I ran [crosstalk 00:08:09].
Chuck Todd: 08:08 Okay. Vice President Biden, 30 seconds because I want to bring other people into this.
Joe Biden: 08:11 I supported the ERA from the very beginning. I’m the guy that extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. We got to the place where we got 98 of the 98 votes in the United States Senate doing it. I’ve also argued very strongly that we, in fact, deal with the notion of denying people access to the ballot box. I agree that everybody wants … Anyway, my time is up. I’m sorry.
Chuck Todd: 08:34 Thank you, Vice President.