Biden Once Referred To Democratic Presidential Candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson As ‘That Boy’

Written by Dana Sanchez

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has been pounded this week over comments about working with segregationists and it got worse after a news story from 1984 resurfaced today, bringing attention to the former vice president once referring to Rev. Jesse Jackson as “that boy.”

The Hill journalist Walker Bragman tweeted about an old Washington Post news article where Biden used the term while speaking about Jackson at a news conference. Jackson ran for president 1984 and 1988.

These are excerpts from the 1984 Washington Post article:

  • “Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), while praising Democratic presidential candidate Jesse L. Jackson, used the word ‘boy’ to refer to him and Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) during an informal news conference here late Friday night.”
  • “Jackson ‘is one of the brightest guys around,’ Biden said in remarks made after a speech. ‘That boy ain’t no dummy, just like Gary Hart, that boy ain’t no dummy either.'”
  • “Biden’s remark came in response to a reporter’s question about the impact of Jackson’s candidacy on the Democratic Party.”

The controversy over working with segregationists began Tuesday at a New York fundraiser, Associated Press reported. Biden talked about how he related to long-dead segregationist senators James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. Both were prominent senators when Biden was elected in 1972. Biden was arguing that Washington functioned more smoothly a generation ago than under today’s “broken” hyperpartisanship, AP reported.

“We didn’t agree on much of anything,” Biden said of the two men. He 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.

Sen. Cory Booker said the former vice president should apologize for his remarks about working with segregationists. Bident countered, “There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career,” AP reported.

On Wednesday, Biden advisor Symone Sanders came to his defense.

Biden “did not praise a segregationist,” she tweeted. ‘That is a disingenuous take. He basically said sometimes in Congress, one has to work with terrible or down right racist folks to get things done. And then went on to say when you can’t work with them, work around them.”

In a 2008 opinion piece in Style Weekly, then-journalist David Poole corroborated how Biden called Jackson “boy” 24 years earlier.

“The news conference was not the first time Biden uttered the word ‘boy’ that night,” Poole wrote. “During his speech, Biden told a self-deprecating story about his encounter with a farmer who repeatedly referred to Biden as boy. Of course, there’s is a difference between Biden’s anecdote and a white man using the same phrase to describe a man of color.”

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Biden got in trouble at the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign when he talked about then-Sen. Barack Obama running for president, Washington Examiner reported. Biden said, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

The comment was seen widely as a reference to Jackson, according to the Examiner. After Biden had apologized, Obama said: “I didn’t take Sen. Biden’s comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate.”
Vice President Joe Biden, center, leads a group across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., Sunday, March 3, 2013. They were commemorating the 48th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when police officers beat marchers when they crossed the bridge on a march from Selma to Montgomery. From left: Selma Mayor George Evans, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., Rev. Jesse Jackson, Biden, Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)